Published: Sep 04, 2012 05:50 PM
Modified: Sep 04, 2012 05:49 PM
RALEIGH - The bags of food for the needy at Catholic Parish Outreach have been getting leaner lately, and theyve been missing tuna and applesauce.
With rising food prices and stagnant donations, the Catholic nonprofit is among several food banks that cut back their offerings this summer. Demand for services shot up when the recession started, and it hasnt dropped yet.
The situation is even worse at Tri-Area Ministry in Wake Forest.
We have been close to having to close our doors because we only had a week left of food, said Anna Weaver, a volunteer at the food pantry. We used to put about 12 or 13 cans of vegetables in a bag, but now were down to five or six cans.
Terry Foley, director of the Catholic Parish Outreach pantry, said shes running a $100,000 budget shortfall this fiscal year. But the group served 10,000 people in Wake, Johnston and Franklin counties in July, a 21 percent increase from past years. According to the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina, 91,000 people in Wake County are considered at risk for hunger, 33 percent of whom are children.
CPO provides a weeks worth of groceries to each client once a month, which costs the agency about $25. When a can of tuna went from 42 to 59 cents, Foley said, the pantry had to cut the staple in favor of cheaper items.
With the increased numbers and the food prices, we cant expect our donations to rise at the same amount to meet that need, she said.Turning to telethon
Many smaller agencies in the area get food through the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina, where spokeswoman Jennifer Caslin said donations are also sluggish. Rising gas prices are a concern, too.
It tends to slow down in the summer months, and it tends to pick up sometime in October, Caslin said. (Donors) are on vacation and theyre just getting kids back to school.
To boost fundraising, the food bank will hold its first-ever 24-hour online telethon starting Friday. Gregory Ng, host of the frozen food review show FreezerBurns, will lead the around-the-clock festivities.
Were a big operation and we have a big story to tell, Caslin said.
The telethon kicks off Friday evening with a social media mixer, which encourages food bank supporters to post on Twitter and Facebook about the event. That could increase the number tuning in online, since the telethon wont be broadcast on TV or radio.
At midnight, organizers will put a group of volunteers to work on camera. Generous insomniacs can participate in a 4 a.m. food drive. And the community is invited to a food truck lunch Saturday at the warehouse off Atlantic Avenue. The trucks will be donating some of their profits to the food bank.Money most needed
Organizers havent yet set a goal for the fundraiser, Caslin said. Were going to see how the first three hours go, she said. Anything is going to be great, because its something weve never done before.
Smaller food pantries hope the benefits of a successful telethon could trickle down. At Tri-Area, Weaver said the larger food bank used to send five pallets of food a month but now sends only one. Now we have to buy food, she said.
And while the agencies all accept nonperishable food donations, cash helps more. A dollar donated to the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina can buy $10 of food at wholesale prices, providing five meals.
We can stretch a dollar a lot farther than we can a can of food, Caslin said.