Food bank prospers

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 21, 2007

DEMOPOLIS &045; As costs rise for consumer needs, so too does the need for social services and outreach programs.

One such program, the Demopolis Food Bank that operates out of the Temple B’Nai Jeshurun building on North Main Street, serves more than 200 people each Wednesday and helped over 9,866 clients in 2006 to get basic foodstuffs.

They open at 7 a.m. and Rish say they always have people waiting for them. This past Wednesday, in preparation for Thanksgiving, they served a larger group &045; approximately 216 people &045; with &8220;emergency needs.&8221;

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According to Rish, the majority of their supplies come from the West Alabama Food Bank in Tuscaloosa, where they pay a service fee of 16 cents per pound of food. The rest of their food comes on a donation basis, which &045; fortunately for the people of Demopolis &045; has been very steady.

Recently, the JROTC at Demopolis High School was able to donate 7,000 pounds of food to the pantry. Rish said this large donation will help save them about $1,000.

According to Rish, the food pantry was founded in the 1980s after a need was seen for a food program for local residents who were not eligible for help through existing food distribution programs.

But not all food pantry organizations have fared so well due to higher costs for gas, utility and health care.

Demand is being driven up by rising costs of food, housing, utilities, health care and gasoline, while food manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers are finding they have less surplus food to donate and government help has decreased, according to Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, executive director of the Ohio Association of Second Harvest Foodbanks.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s annual hunger survey released Wednesday showed that more than 35.5 million people in the United States were hungry in 2006. While that number was about the same as the previous year, heads of food banks and pantries say many more people are seeking their assistance.

Associated Press Writer Lisa Cornwell contributed to this report.