Food Bank reports increase in need

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 10, 2005

Through rain sleet or snow the Demopolis Food Pantry is there for those who rely on them. Wednesday epitomized the dedication of the pantry and their friends as all braved stormy conditions.

Even in the poor conditions many residents of Demopolis were still able to make use of the service. Byrd Rish, who helps organize the Food Bank, said despite the large turnout the numbers were lower than usual. Rish said they see more and more each week when the weather is fair.

“Today we had about 165,” Rish said. “When it is not raining we will have about 190.It is amazing and it is always growing.”

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Rish said the Pantry normally gets their food from out of town.

“Our primary source of food is still the West Alabama Food Bank in Tuscaloosa,” Rish said. “There food is obtained for 16 cents a pound handling charge. The Food Bank is a non-profit clearinghouse that solicits and collects surplus food from supermarkets, restaurants, manufacturers, wholesale businesses, and farms, and also handles USDA commodities.

The bank stores and distributes this food to agencies feeding the needy, such as the Food Pantry.

We are currently the second largest agency (after the Tuscaloosa agency) receiving food from the West Alabama Food Bank.”

The continual growth prompted the Pantry to search for more room. In 2004 changes were made with the decision to expand the Pantry operations to include the front room of the former Temple, as well as the back room, which had been long outgrown.

Rish said the growth had also come in the form of donations. She said last year groups around town had gone well out of their way to help the Pantry.

“Participation in the Pantry by many churches and groups in Demopolis has grown during the last year,” Rish said. “The EMS service at Bryan Whitfield Memorial Hospital held a tremendous month-long food drive this fall, which, along with the Demopolis schools’ and the Boy Scouts’ annual drives, enabled us to skip two months’ purchasing of food from the West Alabama Food Bank in Tuscaloosa.

This amounted to a saving of about $2000 for the Pantry.”

The Food Pantry has been around far longer than most people realize. It was founded in the 1980s after a need was seen for a food program for local residents who, for whatever reason, were not eligible for help through existing food distribution programs. Most clients are elderly or disabled, and all must meet USDA income guidelines. In addition, the bank helps out in other emergency cases.

The group is non-profit so financial support is always a major concern. However, generous contributions by a number of churches, clubs, and organizations have enabled the Pantry to continue its work in providing once-a-week bags of groceries to Demopolis residents who meet income requirements.

Byrd said they are always in need of more volunteers.

“We have people here from about half a dozen churches and we can always use more,” Rish said. “They can call or just show up on Wednesday morning at about 8 a.m.”

The Pantry is located in Temple B’Nai Jeshurun on North Main Avenue, and is open from about 8:00 to 9:00 each Wednesday morning The Food Pantry always needs paper grocery bags and other items. Please bring them to the Parish House any time.