Local efforts are underway to ensure that food pantries are ready to help families who may be struggling with grocery bills.
Area residents are among those nationwide experiencing the cuts to the federal Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, just as local food pantries are also facing a loss in state funds.
“Our shelves were almost empty,” Otego Food Pantry volunteer coordinator Betty Truscott said on Thursday.
But that changed when members of the Otego Elementary School Student Council dropped a donation of 797 nonperishable food items.
Second-grader Lauren Scott, who is student council secretary, said it was difficult collecting all that food, but “we were glad to be a part of it,” noting that “Some people don’t have the food they need.” Council treasurer Bailey McCoy, also in second grade, said she was glad to be helping others.
Second-grade teacher Michele Wilson helped coordinate the effort with the assistance of kindergarten teacher and council advisor Kim Platt. The food drive is a regular effort by the school, Wilson said.
Pantry President John Truscott said the pantry was not operating on a regular basis until a year ago. It served five families in its first year of operation.
“It’s been an awesome experience to see everyone pitching in to get it going,” he said.
Truscott said 59 families will be helped by the school children’s donations.
‘IF YOU DON’T HAVE THE MONEY, YOU CAN’T BUY THE FOOD’
In Oneonta, St. James’ Episcopal Church Food Pantry director Joyce Mason said “We are going to see a lot more people come December. ... It’s going to get tougher for a lot of people with cuts to SNAP benefits and higher prices in the grocery store.”
Families are eligible for a predetermined amount of groceries every thirty days at a pantry, depending on income and side of the household. Her organization served more than 100 households in October; that number is down from nearly 200 the year before. However, the church’s feeding program, The Lord’s Table, served more people this October than last — a total of more than 1,500.