Difficult times for Brookings food bank

By Don Iler, Pilot staff writer November 05, 2013 10:04 pm

Just when demand for food has spiked, donations are down at the Brookings Harbor Community Helpers Food Bank. 

This is coming at a time when the amount of food stamp money awarded to those receiving federal assistance has been cut because of the recent expiration of stimulus funding. 

“It’s scary. Donations are going down and needs are going up,” said Mary Boshart, warehouse manager at the food bank. 

Boshart said the food bank has had to cut back on the amount of food it hands out daily. Purchases of produce have been reduced and fresh produce, which in the past could be distributed daily, is now limited to placement in food boxes, which are handed out only once a month.

 In September, the food bank distributed 288 boxes to hungry residents, while in October, 326 boxes were handed out. The food bank served 1,654 people with daily food handouts in September and 2,006 in October. Boshart anticipated another surge in demand this month, especially with the reduction in food stamps that started Nov. 1. 

The food bank’s checking account is stretched thin and without donations, the food bank may be unable to purchase food, she said. 

“We’ve cut back severely on the food we hand out daily,” Boshart said. 

She said many of the nicer items, such as eggnog or coffee creamer, the food bank used to buy have been reduced, and purchases have been limited to the essentials. 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has also cut back on the items it donates to the food bank. Boshart said the food bank used to get 10 or 12 cases of macaroni and other items a month. Now they are down to only one or two cases a month. 

While the food bank accepts donated food items, cash is more helpful— it can be used to purchase food at prices lower than those available to individual grocery store customers. The food bank can purchase a pound of food for 18 cents. 

“Give us $20 and we can buy a lot of food for cheap,” Boshart said. “You can’t go to the grocery store and get the kind of deals we get.”

The food bank operates on donations and volunteers, and Boshart said both are needed. 

Monetary donations to the food bank can be mailed to P.O. Box 1415, Brookings, OR 97415.