With companies still laying off employees and the job market not really improving much, local food pantries are still having trouble keeping up with the demand.
The Ministerial Alliance Food Pantry has seen an increase in families over the last few months. In September they saw more than 300 families, or 700 people, walk through their doors for help with food.
Laura Raymer, director of the Ministerial Alliance Food Pantry, said that “families” are either one or sometimes a family of eight or nine people. They have also seen a lot of elderly people coming in for food lately.
Nearly every week the food pantry sees an increase in new families coming in for assistance. She said it’s hard for some of them to come in because they are embarrassed and ashamed and the Ministerial Alliance doesn’t want to make them feel like that. They are there to help those in need and make sure everyone that needs to be helped is being taken care of.
Last week the Farmington area saw Playpower Inc. announce the displacement or layoff of about 120 people, many who will likely draw unemployment for a time. Some people are having a hard time getting by right now.
The Help the Hungry Bake Sale has helped the food pantries in the Farmington area the last few years with donations. Last year’s sizable donation from the sale lasted just over five weeks for the Ministerial Alliance.
Raymer said that the annual bake sale is a great way to start Christmas shopping. There are lots of holiday items and baked goods. The food items and money raised from the bake sale will go directly to the two Farmington food pantries, the Ministerial Alliance and St. Vincent De Paul pantries.
Raymer added that even if you don’t know anyone who needs help, everything donated will help those who need it.
The Ministerial Alliance has been receiving assistance from local churches, schools and organizations. Again this year during the holidays they will receive help from the Help the Hungry Bake Sale, Boy Scouts food drive, Share the Holidays with the Farmington Chamber of Commerce and Canyon Concrete.
The food pantry receives food monthly from the US Food Bank in St. Louis and the USDA Commodities along with a couple local grocery stores, as well as purchasing what they need. They rely heavily on donations. Raymer said, and spend several thousands of dollars to purchase food for the Ministerial Alliance to hand out to those in need.
“We are always looking for things. If you are at Wal-Mart and want to pick up an extra toothbrush or anything, it is always welcomed. If you just want to drop off 50 cents I can buy a can of soup with that,” said Raymer. “It goes to a good place. The little things make a difference. We want to make sure everyone is taken care of.”
One story she related was how recently a woman lost her husband and son and it was just her and her daughter. It was their first time in the food pantry and she was embarrassed. Laura greeted her and talked to her and she began to cry. By the time she and her daughter left they were smiling. Laura said that is a big part of why she is involved in the food pantry, because she wants to make a difference and help.
The Ministerial Alliance has between 60 to 70 volunteers for both the food pantry and thrift store. The money raised through the thrift store goes to help the food pantry purchase food and personal items they need for families. It also sends money to the EMAA (East Missouri Action Agency) for some of their programs.
Raymer has been getting help lately from a special volunteer, her daughter Ann. She has been volunteering her time at the thrift store and the food pantry by cleaning and helping to put food away and carrying items in.
Raymer said that if you want to help or donate but are not sure what to do you can always call and ask her. She’s always willing to talk to churches, individuals, organizations and schools about projects to help raise money and food. Raymer can be reached at the thrift store by calling 756-1794.
The Help the Hungry Bake Sale will be held Nov. 21 at St. Joseph Catholic School Gym in Farmington. The doors open at 9 a.m., however, hot cinnamon rolls and coffee will be available at 8 a.m. in the cafeteria.
“Every year we make a little bit more money than the year before. Our committee doesn’t have a set goal to raise. The need is greater this year because groceries are higher and the cost is going up. The $18,000 raised last year didn’t last very long with the food pantries,” said Chris Landrum, event organizer.
Last year the Help the Hungry Bake Sale raised $18,170, which was divided between the two food pantries. They also had around 11 different churches involved in one way or another. Close to 30 different auction items were donated for the event.
For those wishing to donate baked items, the group will be accepting donations from churches, community organizations and members of the community on Nov. 20 after 3 p.m., and on Saturday morning, Nov. 21, from 7 a.m. until 9 a.m. at the St. Joseph Catholic School gym.
For more information on the Help the Hungry Bake Sale call Chris Landrum at 756-1134 or Ardie Henson at 756-1362.