Tuesday, November 26, 2002

Food pantries struggle to meet demand

Economic doldrums have also affected those who donate

By Tom O'Neill
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The limping-along economy has local charitable organizations in something of a Catch-22. Demand is rising while supply continues to flat-line. The reason: the economy affects not only those who receive, but also those who give.

"The trend is that demand has gone up," said Tammy Reasoner, acting director of development for the FreeStore/FoodBank, the area's largest emergency-food provider, which began its Thanksgiving food giveaways Monday.

"We live in a very generous community, but I have to be honest with you, demand is always higher than supply," Ms. Reasoner said.

FreeStore, the Over-the-Rhine warehouse, opened its Thanksgiving dinner giveaway at 8 a.m. Monday. The first people showed up at 4:30 a.m.. By afternoon, the line of recipients reached the corner at Liberty and Walnut. The giveaway continues today and Wednesday.

The agency expects to exceed last year's distribution of: 465,308 pounds of food to 10,797 households. About half of all recipients were children.

"There's just so many people," Jeannette Stephens, 40, of Bond Hill, said Monday after receiving her packages. Her children are ages 15, 11, 7 and 3.

Like most recipients Monday, she got a turkey, a box of dry goods, canned vegetables and a produce bag, typically potatoes.

Ms. Stephens is a former machine operator who said she lost her job to injury.

Just ahead of her in line was Victor Wadley, 41, of Madisonville, an unemployed father of three children ages 10-18. He said he has a degree in business management from the University of Cincinnati.

"The economy is hurting," Mr. Wadley said. "I've never been like this."

Shared Harvest food pantry in Fairfield is providing Thanksgiving baskets for the first time, and Good Shepherd Church in Montgomery expects to distribute full meals to about 65 families.

E-mail toneill@enquirer.com

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