BWFWS summer food donations way down, need remains constant
By LENNY C. LEPOLA
News Assistant Managing Editor
It’s summertime. School’s out, families go on vacation, everything is great, right? Maybe summer’s not so great, not a day at the beach, for families living on the edge of poverty and for the local volunteers who serve them. In fact, during summer months Big Walnut area families living on the edge are still living on the edge, while food donations that stock shelves at Big Walnut Friends Who Share are down — way down.
It’s well known that students from Big Walnut schools and local church members are very generous during food drives held in the months leading up to Christmas. The Friends Who Share shelves are brimming with non-perishable foods, and the hungry in our community are well served by the food pantry, said Pam Jones, who serves as a community liaison with the local, grass-roots social service agency; but with the current economy and the state of unemployment and underemployment in the area the need remains constant year-round.
“During different times of the year community food donations are great and the shelves are full; there’s always plenty of food in the back room to restock the shelves with, but over the summer months food donations drop,” Jones said. “With food costs up dramatically the clients we serve have had an even greater need, and over the last two months we’ve had to buy basic foods to restock our shelves, especially with staples.”
Jones said over 350 families registered with Friends Who Share in search of non-perishable foods to feed their families have visited each month during 2012. She said even in months when food donations are up that the basics offered by BWFWS doesn’t provide everything families need, but it helps.
“At this time of year, we find ourselves spending about $2,500 each month from donated funds to keep basic food items on the shelves to help those less fortunate in our community,” Jones said. ”A recent analysis of the food items we purchase indicated that cold breakfast cereal is the number one demanded item. We spent over $1,500 from donated funds to BWFWS purchasing cereal since January.”
Jones said other needed items that are always in demand are canned pasta dinners like spaghetti and ravioli, canned tuna and chicken breast, noodles and sauce packets, dry pasta, pancake mix and syrup, peanut butter, jelly, pork luncheon meat (a.k.a. SPAM), spaghetti sauce, instant mashed potatoes and rice, hamburger/tuna/chicken “helper”, and cake mix and frosting.
“Our local churches have been great,” Jones said. ”They help us maintain our bottom line and from a quantity perspective they support us overall, we just get out of line over the summer months.
“The Run For John, this year on September 1, will be a big monetary boost for us, but food donations are light; and we get a lot more food donations starting in October and running through Easter time,” Jones continued. “All of that food ends up being used as it comes in, but we make a commitment to our clients that there will be food on the shelves year round. If the food is not there we have to buy it to keep our commitment.”
Jones said non-perishable, canned and boxed food items can be brought to the Big Walnut Friends Who Share Store at 216 High Street in Sunbury — no out of date items, please.
The Friends Who Share store accepts donated items on Monday and Wednesday from 9 a.m. until 11:30 a.m., or phone the store at 740–965-9596 to arrange other drop-off times.
In addition to food assistance BWFWS provides a host of other services to Big Walnut area families throughout the year, including clothing, furniture, kitchen appliances — anything needed in a household.
In keeping with the “We take care of our own” Friends Who Share philosophy, throughout the year Big Walnut churches, schools and student organizations, girl and boy scouts, Big Walnut area service organizations, and individual donors and volunteers all roll up their sleeves to help this unique community organization meet local need.
To volunteer, to donate needed items, or to make a financial contribution to the food pantry or to other Friends Who Share projects, call 740–965-9596. Big Walnut Friends Who Share is located on the Internet at < bigwalnutfriendswhoshare.org >.