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John M. Steiner / The Sun Lt. Mitch Brecto talks Thursday about the food pantry at the Salvation Army in Jamestown. The food pantry has received many donations but some of the shelves are still bare.

Need still high at food pantry here

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The empty shelves at Salvation Army were met with hearts and hands full this summer -- but fall, winter and spring don't have to be the same, officials said.

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More than 6,000 pounds of food and personal hygiene items replaced the vacant shelves left when the need for donations increased while donations themselves decreased, officials said. But they're hoping residents remember the pantry throughout the year.

The trend of increasing need is similar throughout the country. The Census Bureau recently released figures saying nearly one in six Americans lives in poverty -- a record 46.2 million people. The U.S.'s poverty rate of 15.1 percent is the highest of any major industrialized nation, according to Associated Press reports.

"We had a lady ask for diapers the other day," said Lt. Mitch Brecto, of the Salvation Army. "I can't imagine a child without diapers."

The Salvation Army in Jamestown supplies food to more than 250 men, women and children per month from Jamestown and surrounding communities including Pingree, Medina and Millarton. Because of the economy, food pantries across the region have reported donations are down while the need for them rises. In Jamestown, the Salvation Army saw an uptick in need of about 15 percent since last year.

In July, it issued a plea for assistance from the public. The plea was answered with 4,000 pounds of donated goods and 2,000 pounds purchased with the community's monetary donations.

"We're thankful for the support of the community, for stepping up in the time of need," Brecto said.

The community stepped up as individuals but also collectively in church and service groups, businesses and even a summer school program in which the children asked for donations door to door, collecting the canned goods in a red wagon.

"The fact that the kids saw the need is huge," said Lt. Teresa Brecto, Salvation Army.

Some of the big collectors included Noridian Administrative Services, which gathered 269 pounds, Anne Carlsen Center gathered 245 pounds and Eventide at Hi-Acres nursing home collected 139. The late Agnes Fredricks even asked for donations to the Salvation Army food pantry in lieu of flowers after her death in June. More than 100 pounds of food and personal items were donated in her name.

The collections mean Salvation Army can return to its practice of distributing a three-day supply of food and hygiene products. When the shelves resembled clearance aisles, the church had to reduce how much it could offer families requesting help.

"Now we're able to go and give out the full amount again," Mitch Brecto said.

But although the shelves are swallowed up with Dakota Growers pasta (the company donated 10 cases) and canned soup, and the freezers are plum full with produce, Teresa Brecto fears complacency. She hopes residents and businesses will consider giving small amounts throughout the year, perhaps quarterly, instead of a larger amount once a year.

Need knows no season, she said. Although the traditional season of giving, and the church's annual kettle campaign, begin in November.

Although the pantry has added to the materials on its shelves, officials say the need for donations remains. Soup is always a good item to donate, said Mitch Brecto, as well as personal care products like toothbrushes, laundry soap and toilet paper.

To make a donation to the food pantry, leave it or mail it to the Salvation Army office, at 320 First Avenue North, or drop it off at the Salvation Army thrift store, 210 Business Loop West.

Sun reporter Katie Ryan-Anderson can be reached at 701-952-8454 or by email at kryananderson@ jamestownsun.com

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