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Food coordinator Tim Whitmore says his warehouse used to have food most the way up to the ceiling. He said the agencies he gives food to arenít getting as much as they want. (Phil Bullock/The Observer)
Oregon Food Bank donations down from stimulus year, according to one official
A decline in the amount of product available from the Community Connection Food Bank is causing one agency to cut its hours.
Shelter From the Storm’s food pantry, beginning this week, will only be open on Fridays. It used to be open five days a week.
The shelter’s director, Teresa Crouser, said they are cutting food pantry hours despite a marked increase in the number of people they serve. Over the past six months, Crouser said, their need has “easily doubled.”
“Right now we don’t have enough food to make food boxes like we used to,” she said. “The need is still there. From what we can see it doesn’t appear to be on the decline at all.”
Community Connection Food Coordinator Tim Whitmore said the 18 agencies he distributes food to in Union, Baker, Wallowa and Grant counties once left the food bank overflowing, but now ask for more.
“The last couple of years it’s just been sad not being able to give people the food they need,” he said. “It’s just sad.”
Whitmore’s warehouse, he said, used to be full of boxes three-fourths the way to the ceiling. The freezer used to be full.
Community Connection Food Bank received 1,424,779 pounds of food from the Oregon Food Bank in 2010-2011.
Pat Kaczmarek, marketing and communications manager for the Oregon Food Bank, said that was a bumper year due to stimulus funding.
While the overall trend for Oregon Food Bank allocations to the Northeast Oregon Food Bank, which serves four counties, is up, numbers are not as high as they were when stimulus money was available.
In 2011-2012, Community Connection received 1,164,197 pounds of food. So far for 2013-2014, they have gotten 1,227,587 pounds, according to the Oregon Food Bank.
The problem, Whitmore says, is the recession isn’t over for many people out here.
“In Eastern Oregon, the recession hasn’t ended,” he said. “We have a lot more families (being served) than we used to have.”
Holly Diamond-Montgomery, director of the La Grande Salvation Army, said her organization serves 450 to 500 people a month.
“The number of people definitely isn’t dropping,” she said.
One bright spot for the food pantries are community-wide food drives. The annual Union County CAN Food Drive, hosted by the Community Action Network, this year will be held Nov. 2 at local grocery stores. That will coincide with the Boy Scouts’ door-to-door Scouting for Food effort.
Whitmore said that community food drives are “fantastic” and that residents always step up with donations.
Community Connection accepts non-perishable goods at any time. It also accepts personal care products for distribution.
“A lot of that can’t be purchased with food stamps,” Whitmore said of care products.
The food coordinator said every little bit in donations helps.
“My motto is any is a lot,” he said.