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After lull, Christmas season sees return to high usage at Mitchell Food Pantry – Mitchell Republic

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Mitchell — Over the past year, there has been a period of declining public use of the Mitchell Food Pantry. Volunteers from community organizations had more food than needed for people coming through the door in need of a little help.

And the economy has changed.

“Well, wham! Grocery prices are out of sight,” said Karen Pooley, one of the directors of Mitchell Food Pantry. “Now we’re back where we were.”

The recent spike in inflation and rising prices of groceries and other common products has returned the need for help putting food on the table. I was busy stocking the shelves and helping shoppers.

Pooley said the pantry is now back to serving about 1,000 people a month, or about 350 households. This is a return to normal numbers after usage dropped to about 160 households per month.

While the reasons for the decline in pantry usage remain somewhat of a mystery, Pulley said stimulus payments related to the COVID-19 pandemic and tax cuts in the 2021 child tax credit could help some families has theorized that the can now hold more things. Money to the grocery bill.

“All the while, it fell from about 350 to 160 households per month. of tax credits,” Pulley said. “And now it said it’s late. Maybe we’ll get busy.”

It’s taken a while, but activity is definitely picking up in the food pantry. People turned to pantry services again, but now the pantries themselves and their suppliers are grappling with the challenges of keeping shelves stocked, from high food prices to weather that causes transportation problems. is.

The Pantry uses its relationship with Feeding South Dakota to purchase groceries at discounted prices. But even with the enormous purchasing power of large food banks, higher prices must ultimately be reflected. Combined with occasional shortages and winter weather hampering shipments, there is a lot to juggle to keep people fed.

Pooley said Pantry sometimes sidesteps that problem by turning to more local sources.

Mitchell Food Pantry Director Karen Pooley organizes canned food at the group’s former location at 212 W. First Avenue in Mitchell in 2019 in this Mitchell Republic file photo . Pantries help provide year-round food for those in need. Pantries see increased usage during the 2022 holiday season.
Mitchell Republic File Photo

“They have a hard time getting food. If they don’t have it, they can’t provide it, so we can’t buy it,” Pulley said. “We are seeing more local purchases as a result.”

This includes seeing ads for weekly grocery store deals like hamburger helpers, elbow macaroni, and canned pasta. But even that route is becoming difficult to navigate as inflation also affects their prices.

“[I’ve seen]about a 25% increase. We used to buy a loaf of bread for 99 cents, now it’s $1.39. I am,” Pulley said.

Feeding South Dakota, where Mitchell Food Pantry sources much of its supply, is present in 94 communities in South Dakota and is dedicated to helping end hunger in the state. We use our massive purchasing power to source food and sell it at discounted prices to food pantries and provide other hunger relief services.

Stacey Andernacht, director of communications at Feeding South Dakota, said the general need has increased in recent months. New Year’s holidays are not uncommon, she said, but recent economic trends are likely to increase overall usage.

“Typically during the holiday season, we tend to see an influx of individuals using our programs, including agency partners like Mitchell, hot meal sites and mobile food distributions,” said Andernacht. “Since last year, he has seen an increase of more than 30% in the number of people using only mobile food distribution. The service continues to grow month-on-month, exceeding budgets.”

Andernacht agreed that the end of pandemic-era stimulus programs, including the end of free lunches for students, is likely contributing to the increase in demand.

“It started with the end of pandemic-era programs that elevated some people above food insecurity levels. Together, the need is definitely growing,” says Andernacht.

Inflation has also hit her organization.

“Inflation is affecting the budget because we have a lot of purchasing power, but prices are going up, so we can buy at a good price, but we don’t have a lot of it,” Andernacht said. says.

Pooley said winter weather has affected food deliveries, and whenever trucks can arrive, they sometimes go to the pantry to pick up what’s available. They lack access to food and other vital resources to cope.

In addition to keeping food pantry partners stocked, Andernacht said the serious situation in that part of the state has forced Feeding South Dakota to turn more attention there.

“Over the weekend, we received an emergency call in the heart of the state. Grocery shelves are empty and people are in the countryside. People can’t access it and it’s urgent right now,” Andernacht said. “They need that food.”

Andernacht said getting food to the table of those in need is a matter of balancing everyone’s needs with the resources at hand. She said the current situation is not ideal, but Feeding South Dakota is dedicated to getting the job done.

In front of the County Fair Food Store in Mitchell are two grocery carts filled with groceries. Grocery cart food is being collected to feed the Mitchell Food Pantry.  (Matt Gade / Republic)

This Mitchell Republic file photo shows two grocery carts full of food destined for the Mitchell Food Pantry in front of Mitchell’s County Fair Food Store.
Mitchell Republic File Photo

“There is so much pressure on our processes and systems right now, and we are continuously evaluating and evaluating how we are meeting those needs. It is the holiday season. It’s time to make, people get together to eat and make grandma’s casserole,” says Andernacht. “These are the things we want to make sure people facing hunger can do.”

Pulley said he’s doing his due with the resources Mitchell Food Pantry has. However, the economic climate has slowed donations, as some regular contributors have found themselves running out of grocery budgets.

While it’s a difficult situation for all involved, Mitchell Food Pantry and its volunteers are hopeful that the deadline will come despite the situation. And pantries to grow their own food dollars so they have stock on their shelves and ready for those who need it. We will continue to work on

Pantry is used to thinking economically and expanding its own budgets to make the most of what’s available, Pulley said. If so, we know the community itself won’t let them down.

She said it had never happened before.

“We don’t do fundraising for ourselves, it’s for our churches, businesses and local people. There may come a time when we have to petition. People rejoice.” Mitchell is so generous with her food pantry. is.”

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