LORAIN – It`s a sign no one in need ever wants to see, but it has crept onto the windows of another Lorain County food pantry.
The Salvation Army in Lorain has joined its sister organization in Elyria in decorating the glass windows of its Broadway building with a sign saying they are out of food.
The Lorain pantry has been closed since Nov. 15, due to a combination of a lackluster number of donations and larger-than-normal crowds of families in need, said local director Capt. Jose Paneto.
“We used to serve about 250 people a month, but beginning this year it`s now 500 people a month,” Paneto said. “People are telling us there are no jobs in Lorain. They`ve fallen on hard times.”
Paneto has been coordinating with area schools to sponsor food drives since he had to close the doors, but with students on Thanksgiving break, nothing substantial has come in. He`s gotten the word out to media outlets in Northeast Ohio, too, but the large number of donations needed just isn`t there.
“We`ve gotten a few things. People have come in with a few boxes and some cans, and we`re grateful for that. But it`s not enough to open the doors,” he said.
Paneto typically gives out about 50 bags of food a day to those in need, so he would require at least that much food to open the doors. A typical bag contains two boxes of macaroni and cheese, one jar of peanut butter, rice, a bag of noodles, pasta sauce, vegetables and cooking oil.
He said he`s especially worried about Christmas because the number of families in need at Christmas time has tended to increase. Last year, for example, he served 859 people, whereas in years past he would serve about 280 at most.
He expects this year to be even larger.
“This whole year has seen an increase, so I think it will do the same at Christmas,” he said. “I hope it doesn`t, but we`ll try to be prepared.”
Toys will also be an issue, he fears, because the Marine Corps has already told him they will only be able to contribute half what they did last year due to lack of manpower.
Salvation Army distributed toys to about 2,000 children last Christmas with the help of the Marine Corps.
Elyria Salvation Army Capt. Paul Pelletier hung his “Sorry, we are out of food –” sign Tuesday. On Wednesday, after an article appeared about their plight in The Chronicle, the Elyria Salvation Army received a number of donations, but those will only last up to a week, he said.
“It`s a difficult time right now,” Pelletier said. “We have some money left in reserve from last year that we kept for an emergency situation, but I don`t know how much food we`ll be able to buy.”
Pantries can purchase food from Second Harvest Food Bank of Northern Ohio that residents donate at about 15 cents a pound as a way to recoup the cost to distribute food. The food bank also provides donations to pantries.
But both Salvation Army facilities also are strapped for cash.
Julie Chase-Morefield, executive director of Second Harvest, said food pantries are struggling everywhere because of an increasing number of needy people.
Contact Adam Wright at 653-6257 or firstname.lastname@example.org.