While food pantries across the state are struggling to meet increased demand this year, Sedalia organizations have been able to keep up with the help of consistent community support.
Across Missouri, food pantries are trying to keep supplies on their shelves as the recession forces more people to seek help. The Missouri Food Bank Association said demand at some pantries has risen by as much as 44 percent this year. The group said many people are seeking help for the first time because of layoffs and other financial problems.
Association president Karen Haren said the increased demand has been felt throughout state food pantries, which are seeking more donations of time, money and food to help meet that demand.
Jack Menges, executive director of Open Door Ministries in Sedalia, said although food pantries statewide are struggling to meet the increased demand, Open Door has served a relatively steady number of people for the last 18 months.
“We’re just pretty well the same as a year ago, and I think the reason is that we were doing well before,” Menges said.
Open Door’s food pantry typically serves between 1,200 and 1,400 families each month, or about 10 percent of Pettis County families. Menges said most other food banks only serve about 5 percent of their local populations.
“Because we were reaching a higher number of families to begin with, we did not experience that increase,” Menges said. “But the need is still there for food and donations.”
He said the while the local demand for food has not increased at the same rate as other areas across the state, the demand for other services — such as assistance with utility bills, medication and rent — has spiked.
Capt. Mark Haslett, commander of the Sedalia Salvation Army, said his organization noticed a greater number of people seeking help this year.
More people are already registered for assistance during the holidays, with about two weeks left before the enrollment deadline, than did during all of last year.
“We are seeing more people, but fortunately there have been enough individuals and businesses to aid us and keep things moving,” Haslett said.
“It is a challenge, but we just take it one day at a time.”
Haslett said despite the increased demand, a strong start to the Salvation Army’s kettle campaign demonstrates people’s willingness to give to support their neighbors who are in need.
After just one week since the start of the kettle campaign, the Salvation Army has collected more than $12,000 of its $85,000 fundraising goal.
“People are stepping up,” Haslett said. “With the projected increase we will need more money, so hopefully we’ll go over the goal. If it keeps at this rate, we’ll be OK for making our goal.”