- Associated Press - Saturday, October 10, 2015

QUINCY, Ill. (AP) - Corinne Schieferdecker doesn’t know what she would do without the help of Quincy food banks.

“They help me and my disabled son with enough food for a couple of meals until I can make it to payday,” Schieferdecker said.

After a recent visit to the Salvation Army Food Pantry, Schieferdecker and her son, 20-year-old Maverick Dasch, ate a meal of hot dogs, pork and beans and fruit cocktail — all from the pantry.

“A lot of people are living off disability and can’t afford to buy food,” she said. “I get $6 a month in food stamps. That doesn’t go very far.”

U.S. food banks are expected to give away about 4 billion pounds of food this year, more than double the amount provided a decade ago, according to Feeding America, the nation’s primary food bank network. The group gave away 3.8 billion pounds in 2013.

While reliance on food banks exploded when the economy tanked in 2008, groups said demand continues to rise year after year, leaving them scrambling to find more food.

Heidi Welty, social services director for the Salvation Army, has seen more people seeking help, but more are donating as well.

“There are definitely more requests and more people coming in, but we’ve had a lot of support,” Welty said.

That support was especially needed after the July 13 windstorm when many people were without food and electricity.

“I don’t think anybody went hungry, but we were really busy,” Welty said.

Dot Foods was especially generous with food that could be used for emergency canteen meals as well as food cupboard items.

Mark Geissler, program manager for Horizons kitchen and food pantry, 224 S. Eighth, has seen constant growth since the food pantry opened in 2010.

“Looking at our figures based off of the year 2014, we saw 174 families on average per month. We estimate based on what we’ve seen so far for this year, that figure will go up again from there,” Geissler said.

Most of the food comes from donations through partner churches and food drives, such as the annual collection by U.S. Postal Service letter carriers.

Horizons also operates a soup kitchen at 701 Hampshire.

Feeding America spokesman Ross Fraser said a recent study by his organization estimated that 46 million people sought food assistance at least once in 2014.

The drop in food stamp rolls by nearly 2.5 million people from recession levels could be contributing to the food bank demand, because people who no longer qualify for the government aid may still not earn enough to pay their bills.

U.S. Labor Department figures show wages and salaries rose only 0.2 percent in the second quarter of the year.

Feeding America, which coordinates large food donations for 199 food banks nationwide, has seen donations of food and money to the Chicago-based organization climb from $598 million in 2008 to $2.1 billion in 2014. The group coordinates donations from larger retailers, like Wal-Mart, while local food banks also seek food from smaller businesses and buy groceries with donated money.

Welty said cash donations help supplement the pantry’s collections.

“There are times when we have to shop for it. It’s best to buy in bulk,” Welty said.

Cash donations also give the pantry a chance to offer vouchers for people with specific needs.

Schieferdecker got a voucher when she made her first trip to a food pantry after Maverick was born. He had food allergies and needed a special kind of baby formula that cost $90. When Maverick’s autism and cerebral palsy were diagnosed, she became his full-time caregiver, getting a modest paycheck and occasionally seeking help from food pantries.

“I especially need help around the holidays. I get food so I can afford to get something for my son for Christmas,” Schieferdecker said.

Welty sometimes marvels that food and cash donations have generally kept up with the rising demand.

“Quincy has been an amazing community,” Welty said.

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Source: Quincy Herald-Whig, https://bit.ly/1MLJVsr

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Information from: The Quincy Herald-Whig, https://www.whig.com


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