It should come as not surprise that the food pantries and soup kitchens in local communities are feeling the strain of the economical challenges. Brenda Braden, founder of Kitchen of Hope says, “Pantry’s and soup kitchens are popping up everywhere because there is a need.”
The Kitchen of Hope, located at Bethel Methodist Church, is open on Saturdays from 11am to 1pm. Braden says they now feed as many as 110 which is up from the 60 that was the average six months ago.
“Meals at the Kitchen of Hope are home cooked,” Braden said. ” I like to make a balanced meal each week. Sometimes it’s spaghetti and meat balls or pork roast with mashed potatoes and green beans. We had a cook out last week.”
"The first of the month is not as busy. I think it could be because that is when a lot of people get food stamps. By the end of the month they need a little help and we are happy to give it," she said.
The Kitchen of Hope has been open since 2009. Braden says recently she has seen working families coming for meals.
"I think it is because even though they are working, they are not making as much as they had in previous jobs or they are having to take cuts in pay. There are also 50 percent more children in Bethel who are on free or reduced price lunches. A man from our church printed up flyers for the school letting families know they were welcome to visit the Kitchen of Hope on Saturdays," she said.
Braden says they also deliver meals to Bethel Woods Senior community because Meals on Wheels does not deliver on weekends.
Kitchen of Hope receives no help from the government. According to Braden, donations are received from various people.
"A lady in Adams County sent me a money order for $570. I don't even know who she is or how she found out about us."
The YWCA pantry at 55 South 4th street in Batavia does not have a soup kitchen, however the food pantry is definitely busier this year than in past years, according to Lynne Strand, Coordinator of Emergency Services.
"We have 50 families a day come through here now. The monthly average is about 600. The average family consists of two adults and five kids. We are seeing more blended families visiting as well, such as adult brothers and sisters coming in with other family members," Strand said.
The food pantry stocks mostly non-perishable items. However, Strand says they do have some produce.
"We pick up produce in the morning but in limited quantities because we can't have any leftovers as we have no refrigeration available. We also have to work with a budget when purchasing items."
By the end of the day the food pantry is empty, Strand said. Items such as boxes of macaroni and cheese, fresh or canned vegetables, non-refrigerated milk, canned tuna, chicken or ham go quickly.
"People are always asking for bar soap, shampoo and toiletries. These are items that we will gladly accept as donations because our budget is limited. And we have a hard time keeping diapers in stock. We go through 20 packages a day. We could really use help in the form of donations with these."
Braden says they purchase the nonperishables from the Free Food Store in Cincinnati. The amount they purchase depends on their running budget.
"Most of the money comes from FEMA. We also host fund-raisers. Private groups donate money and food. When the post office in Batavia had a food drive we were the recipients of that."
The YWCA Food Pantry is open 4 days a week. For information on the days and times call (513) 732-0450.
Rick McCarty, founder of Grace and Mercy Outreach Center, located at 17 Main Street in Amelia, says they are also experiencing challenges due to the economy.
"We have been her for eight and a half years but we are really struggling this year. I believe it is because the people who were our strongest supporters in purchasing items such as clothing, furniture and other items, or just simply donating money, aren't coming in anymore. Now they are needing help," McCarty said.
According to McCarty, approximately 15-30 families come to the food pantry each and soup kitchen each week. On average he says there are 600 people who come in a month. This activity, he says is way up from past years.
"We ask for donations for the items in the store, that have been donated to us. There have been times when someone needed a new suit for a job interview and didn't have the money to pay for it, so we just gave it to him."
McCarty says the donations received from items purchased in their thrift store helps pay for the food pantry and food kitchen. However, where there is a need they try to fill it they try to fill it themselves.
"We feel truly blessed when we can extend our hands out to help someone else. It doesn't matter what the situation is we ask no questions. It is refreshing too, when I see people helping each other. Encouraging each other," McCarty said.
McCarty and his wife are currently using money out of their own pockets to keep Grace and Mercies open.
"It costs about $4,300 a month to keep us open. I'm not complaining about taking money out of our own pockets. It's rough out there for everyone. We have a lot more families coming in here for food and even clothing than we have had in previous years," he said. "We will gladly accept any donations. Food is always welcome but because we have no refrigeration, it must be non perishables. Things like cans of soup or boxed of macaroni and cheese are always a hit. These seem to go first."
For information on times and days Grace and Mercy is open call (513) 753-1555.