Economic Conditions Leads to More Need at Food Pantries

PARAGOULD, AR (KAIT) -- We all know the impact the economy is having on our financial institutions, but it's also having a deep impact on the livelihood of people in Region 8.

Food pantries across the area are seeing an increase in need from the public.

"We have had a 90% increase in the demand for food," said Mission Outreach Executive Director Jamie Collins.

Mission Outreach in Paragould is one of several food pantries in Region 8.  They, like so many others, are struggling to keep what they need in stock for those who need it more.

"We've seen a reduction in individuals who are able to give, even through the churches.  Many of them have reduced their funding because their funding is down," said Collins.

The majority of people Mission Outreach helps are elderly and disabled, however in the past year they are seeing a slight difference in the people they are helping.

"We are seeing an increase in individuals who typically didn't meet poverty guidelines," said Collins.

Some people, who last year were considered middle class, have now slipped past the line of poverty.

"Because there aren't as many jobs or because prices have so escalated, the dollar will not go as far as it once did," said Collins.

Now they're seeing a record number of people needing their help.  Collins told Region 8 news many parents who work low wage jobs can't afford child care.  In many cases these children are now responsible for not only feeding themselves, but taking care of the younger children in the home.

"One of our training programs has had to be diverted to training the little children in child care skills," said Collins.

Collins said there are fewer donations being made by large companies of excess food.  That paired with fewer food drives taking place, means less food on the shelves.

Mission Outreach buys some of their food from the Food Bank of Northeast Arkansas at a discounted rate.  The demand for food, and lack of it, has caused those prices to go up.  Another source of food comes from a church out of Missouri that sells pallets of food in lots.  Collins said that in the past several months those lots are yielding less food and more candy and personal toiletries, both things that don't help feed those in need.

Food is distributed to those who qualify on Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday of every week.  The hours are from 9 a.m. until 12 p.m. and from 1 p.m. until 4 p.m.  They also have a shelter than houses up to 80 people.

Here are the income guidelines they follow to qualify:

Family size:                  Monthly income:                      Yearly Income:

1                                  $1,106                                     $13,273

2                                  $1,483                                     $17,797

3                                  $1,860                                     $22,321

4                                  $2,237                                     $26,845

5                                  $2,614                                     $31,369

6                                  $2,991                                     $35,892

7                                  $3,368                                     $40,417

8                                  $3,745                                     $44,941