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.