Photo by Danette M. Watt
Judy Foret, a volunteer at Community Hope Center in Cottage Hills, packs boxes for its food pantry. Produce, meat, dairy items and breads are included in packages for families.
Mary Brand is looking forward to the holidays. That’s when people typically are more generous, in keeping with the spirit of the season. Brand is the president of the Crisis Food Center’s board of directors.
Financial donations were up about 11 percent over the same period last year, but the number of families assisted rose by 24 percent the past three years. The pantry served 10,602 families in 2013.
Because demand has outpaced supply, the Alton pantry has had to temporarily cut in half the number of families it serves daily. Instead of 50 or so families, “we now serve just 25,” Brand said. “We’re not able to purchase extra food beyond what’s donated. They get a much smaller box now.”
Families must call between 8:30 and 11 a.m. weekday mornings to pick up food that day.
The pantry tries to give a five-day nutritionally balanced box of food based on the number of people in a family. Brand said they get “tons of produce donated” and supplement that with canned fruits and vegetables as well as bread and other items. Some meat is donated by Operation Food Search in St. Louis and by Schnucks, which works with the organization.
“We’re hanging on until the holidays,” Brand said.
Until then, she and the Crisis Food Pantry have the Empty Bowl Project on their calendar. Now in its fifth year, the signature event is a major fund-raiser with corporate sponsors such as Morrissey Contracting, Freer Auto Body and Citizens for Beiser. Last year, the fund-raiser brought in nearly $12,000.
Other sources of help are the Community Christmas and local Boy Scouts’ Scouting for Food. Besides food, Community Christmas provides clothing for the pantry’s clients. This year’s Scouting for Food is Saturday, Nov. 15.
Unlike the Crisis Food Center, the Community Hope Center in Cottage Hills serves three times as many families each day, with similar sources of donations.
“A ton and a half of food goes out every day,” said Paul Militzer, the center’s director. “The ministry department is what sets us apart. God has been very good to us and we’re grateful.”
Militzer said he’s seen an increase in the number of clients, with 751 new families coming through the door between January and October. To make use of the center’s services, new clients need to bring in a Social Security card, proof of residency and proof of income. Food is picked up every two weeks and is a mix of refrigerated and boxed items.
“When I go to the store, I don’t have to decide between one item or another,” Militzer said. “Our clients have to make tough choices.”
In addition to the pantry, the center serves a hot lunch that’s open to the community Monday through Wednesday.
Operation Blessing, in Wood River, has been “going strong for 32 years,” said Virginia Kirkpatrick. Her late husband, Ned, gifted her with $500, which she used to open the food pantry.
Last month, she and her 76 volunteers gave out food boxes to 2,060 people. She’s not sure how many people she served over the past year, but said it’s gone up.
“We’re seeing the effects of the economy, but everyone else is seeing it, too,” she said.
Over the years, she’s never held a fund-raiser but said the pantry doesn’t lack for donations.
“We got a delivery from the United Way this morning. Our freezers are full. We’re really blessed.”
Empty Bowl project
Saturday, Nov. 8, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Jacoby Arts Center
627 E. Broadway, Alton
Jacoby Arts Center and Crisis Food Center present the fifth annual River Bend Empty Bowls Project. For $20, ticket holders can select a hand-crafted bowl made by River Bend artists, then enjoy lunch while listening to music. Soups provided by local restaurants such as Gentelin’s on Broadway and My Just Desserts. Entertainment will be provided by Gigi Darr, Matt Taul, and Tyler Ceisler. Proceeds go to help Crisis Food Center continue to provide for families in need. Dark Horse Art Works is coordinating art donations for the event.
Crisis Food Center
21 E. Sixth St., Alton
Monday to Friday: 1-3 p.m., first 25 families to call between 8:30-11 a.m.
Community Hope Center
1201 Hope Center Lane, Cottage Hills
Food bank: Monday to Wednesday and Friday, 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.
Soup kitchen: Monday to Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
525 Alby St., Alton
Tuesday: 9 to 11:30 a.m.; Friday: 1-3 p.m.
Essential Blessings Food Pantry
River Of Life Family Church
3401 Fosterburg Road, Alton
Second Monday of month: 5-7:30 p.m.
18 E. Lorena Ave., Wood River
Monday to Thursday: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
120 W. First St., Roxana
Third Saturday: 10 a.m. to noon
NOTE: the pantry will be discontinued at the end of December.
Community Care Center
1818 Cleveland, Granite City
Monday to Thursday: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. (closed between11:30 a.m. and noon)