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Salvation Army has little food left to share

John M. Steiner / The Sun Lt. Mitch Brecto of the Jamestown Salvation Army looks into a near-empty chest freezer Thursday. Many of the food shelves are completely empty.1 / 3
John M. Steiner / The Sun Many shelves are void of food at the Jamestown Salvation Army.2 / 3
John M. Steiner / The Sun Many shelves are empty of food at the Jamestown Salvation Army.3 / 3

The cupboards at Salvation Army in Jamestown look more like after-Christmas clearance aisles than stocked shelves for hungry families.

Peanut butter, tomatoes and a few tubes of toothpaste remain for those in need of assistance, but shelves alotted for rice, beans, noodles and a variety of other products are bare. A chest freezer, typically full of hamburger, ham and roasts, is empty.

And that means some families go with less, or go with none at all.

"Due to a decrease in food drives and individual donations, we are unable to adequately provide for the families depending on us," said Lt. Mitch Brecto, corps officer for the Salvation Army in Jamestown.

The Salvation Army supplies food to about 264 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 arises. In Jamestown, the Salvation has seen an uptick in need of about 15 percent since last year.

The country itself faces similar issues.

In a 2010 nationwide Hunger in America study, 18 percent of clients with children said their children skipped meals during the last year because the family couldn't afford the food. In the same study, 24 percent of adults skipped meals almost every month because they couldn't afford to eat.

"When you're down and out, you're down and out in everything," said Corps Officer Lt. Teresa Brecto.

Because of the decrease in supply, the Salvation Army has reduced what it will give to those seeking help. So the church is seeking donations, hoping Jamestown-area residents, churches, businesses and service clubs will reach into their wallets, and maybe even their pantries, and give to those in need.

Teresa Brecto said the Salvation Army can use any unexpired, nonperishable good like pasta, pancake mix, canned vegetables and powdered milk. Hygiene products are helpful too, like dish soap, laundry detergent, shampoo and conditioner, deodorant and razors.

"When they go to the grocery store, rather than buy one, buy two," she said.

Diapers are important too, especially in sizes 3 and up, said LeAnna Brown, food pantry assistant who works directly with those seeking help,

The biggest bang donors can get for their buck, however, is to donate cash. The Salvation Army can purchase goods and products from the Great Plains Food Bank priced well-below market value.

Sometimes charitable organizations are criticized for enabling people to receive free goods or services without working for them. But the Salvation Army tries to limit abuse.

Those requesting assistance are also offered a course to learn budgeting skills. And while the church used to offer hotel rooms to motorists who couldn't afford them, Teresa Brecto says she limits those rooms to people who've had a breakdown or some other emergency, rather than someone who stops because they are tired.

Brown said abuse is rare.

Of the people she works with, 80 to 85 percent of them have at least one job but have had some sort of emergency -- foreclosure, layoff, illness -- that prevents them from making ends meet.

"It just hurts them to come in" Brown said. "But you've got to do what you've got to do."

Brown said the Jamestown area is full of good people with big hearts. Just this week, a man off the street heard the Salvation Army was struggling and walked in the office with a $250 check.

"It just shows that people care," she said.

To give to the Salvation Army, drop donations at its downtown location or the Salvation Army Thrift Store. For more information, call 252-0290.

Sun reporter Katie Ryan-Anderson can be reached at 701-952-8454 or by e-mail at kryananderson@