Apr 17, 2008 Megan Horsington Uncategorized
A recent New York Times article declared that the recent rise in food and gas prices, coupled with the staggering number of layoffs nationwide, are causing the national numbers of people collecting food stamps to skyrocket. This year, the projected number of recipients should reach 28 million, the largest since the establishment of the aid program in the 1960s.
In Central New York, the pressure stemming from price increases is mounting on area food banks and local food pantries. Maureen Germain, along with Jean Cupoli, serves as co-coordinator of the Marcellus Ecumenical Food Pantry, located inside the Marcellus First Presbyterian Church. The food pantry has served the community for more than 20 years.
“We serve an average of 70 families each month, a number which has increased slightly in recent months,” says Germain. “We have mostly seen an increase in the amount of ‘working poor’ in Marcellus.”
Many factors contribute to a family’s need to seek assistance from the food pantry. Some are single parents with children to feed, and others are senior citizens who have difficulty living on their Social Security, disability, or pension payments. Germain and Cupoli make every effort to maintain a friendly and considerate atmosphere in the Marcellus Ecumenical Food Pantry.
Some fear that increasing food prices will bring about a decrease in food donations. However, there is an explanation for why the food pantry has not encountered this problem. According to Germain, donations most often come to the food pantry in the form of money. Fewer donors provide actual food products than money, though there are several drop-boxes around the community, including one inside the First Presbyterian Church. Donors are mostly members of the Marcellus community. Local churches request donations on a rotating basis. Each of the four Marcellus churches has a designated Sunday on which parishioners are asked to make a contribution to the food pantry.
The money collected is used to purchase food products at a deep discount from the Food Bank of Central New York. “One dollar of donation money buys us approximately ten to twelve dollars worth of food from the food bank,” explains Germain. “Some foods, though not many, are actually offered for free.”
Patronage of the Marcellus food pantry is anonymous, though once a year patrons are asked to complete a “sign-in,” which helps to confirm conditions of aid such as residence in Marcellus. The sign-in is the only prerequisite, and people are welcomed into the food pantry once a week on Tuesdays. The pantry offers a “client’s choice” food selection process and provides patrons with as many as nine meals for the entire week. According to the 2007 annual report from the pantry, this system has become a model for similar establishments throughout the state.
Many food bank patrons appear regularly each week, while some come every other week. Need for donations rises during holiday seasons, as there are a number of people who ask for aid only on major holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter.
“The Marcellus community has been very generous to the food pantry,” observes Germain. She adds that some members of the community have found creative ways to raise money for the charity. One Marcellus high school student organized a benefit for the food pantry as her senior project. She raised $1000, which she presented to the food pantry, along with a collection of toiletries that were also donated. “We are not allowed to buy anything but food with donation money,” explains Germain, adding that often food recipients need personal hygiene products as well.
The food pantry accepts monetary or food donations from individuals or businesses. To arrange a donation, call the Marcellus First Presbyterian Church at 673-2201 or 673-2321.
Marcellus Ecumenical Food Pantry
First Presbyterian Church
Corner Main & North Streets
Marcellus, NY 13108