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Stuff the food shelf

Pantry hits low mark

You can help:

Items most in need for the Austin Salvation Army food shelf are:

• Beans (canned and dried).

• Vegetables.

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• Canned fruit.

• Boxed potatoes.

• Crackers.

• Soups or gravies.

• Stuffing.

• Pasta.

• Rice.

Food donations can be taken to the Austin Salvation Army, 409 First Ave. N.E., 9 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. People with large donations should call 437-4566 in advance.

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By Tim Ruzek

truzek@postbulletin.com

Your car breaks down.

You’re already working with a limited income, and the mechanic’s bill eats a big, unexpected hole into your budget. With other bills taking a higher priority, your food budget takes a hit.

That’s where the Austin Salvation Army’s food shelf can come into play, helping people by providing a supply of donated food to get them through budget emergencies and other difficult times.

Lately, however, the food shelf — Austin’s main emergency pantry — has been in an emergency of its own. An increase in demand has combined with declining donations.

"We’ve never had it as low as we have it now," said Maxine Brady, a Salvation Army volunteer for nearly a decade.

Late last week, the pantry didn’t have any vegetables, which always seemed to be overstocked on the shelves, said Lori Blanton, a Salvation Army caseworker. The pantry never previously ran out of cans of vegetables, she said.

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Blanton started spreading word last week about the food shelf’s seriously low supply. Donations since have come in, she said, but it’s still not enough, especially with the holiday season coming up.

The pantry usually sees a drop in a food donations during the summer, Blanton said. Increased demand for pantry items, though, started in August and hasn’t stopped, greatly lowering the number of items on its shelves, she said.

The pantry is about 20 to 30 percent full, Blanton estimated. An overstock room usually gets filled by late December but now only contains empty boxes, she said.

The Salvation Army typically has 80 to 100 households a month with the food pantry, she said. In recent months, however, the demand has increased to 125 to 150 households a month.

People are interviewed to see if their financial status meets the requirements for using the food shelf. Those who qualify can walk with a Salvation Army staff member through the pantry once every 60 days.

If they do it right, each person should leave with a five-day supply of food to use in the two months to get through the most difficult times, Blanton said.

Blanton said she thinks the economy might have something to do the with the increased demand, noting that she has seen a lot of part-time workers using the pantry lately. There also has been a spike in the number of couples without children using it, she said.

Various food drives will be starting soon, she said, including some that coincide with Halloween.

November and December probably are the biggest time for food donations, she said. The Salvation Army provides food baskets for families in need for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

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