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Wednesday, June 6th, 2012

Pantry clients down due to proof of income

By William Kincaid

Dave Kimmel of Rockford selects items at the CALL food pantry in Celina this mor. . .

CELINA - The director of CALL Food Pantry in Celina says the organization is now serving those truly in need after severing ties with a government-run food bank.
The Rev. Tim Clutter said pantry clients have decreased by 40 percent since the organization began requiring proof of low income status - something it wasn't allowed to do while tied to the government-run bank.
"That has taken the fraud out of the system," he said.
The pantry late last year terminated its contract with the West Ohio Food Bank in Lima, so it could begin checking proof of poverty and begin ministering religion to its clients.
"With that change in the way we do the ministry, we're serving the needy better than ever, and God has blessed that decision, many, many times over," Clutter said.
Prior to its schism with West Ohio Food Bank, CALL was serving more than 1,000 families per month, totaling about 3,500 people.
"We're serving about 40 percent less clients right now, but we are providing the same amount of food as what we were before," Clutter said. "The blessings of all this and the idea behind it was that the food is now going to those really in need, and we know those who are coming in really are in need."
CALL no longer receives any government assistance, relying only on donations. Clutter estimated the West Ohio Food Bank provided up to $50,000 worth of food a year.
He said people came out of the woodwork to donate after the pantry cut ties with the food bank. He anticipates the support will continue.
"It's been a blessing from God," he said.
Clutter said the pantry uses a four-tier income system, with those in most need getting the most food. People with the lowest income are receiving as much as 24 days worth of food instead of a six-day supply, he said.
"Donations are strong, both food and cash," Clutter said. "Really, the move away from the government handcuffs has been very, very popular with Mercer County citizens, which (is) allowing us to start additional programs, additional support for the people coming in the food pantry ... We've started an everyday milk program as well as a everyday personal care program."
Conversely, The West Ohio Food Bank, which is required to supply government-issued food to 11 counties, is having difficulty getting its provisions in the hands of the needy in Mercer County, CEO Bambi Markham said.
West Ohio has set up mobile pantries twice at Celina First Church of God and has had few takers. Only two people showed up for food the last time, she said.
Markham wouldn't speculate why people aren't showing up.
"We very much want this food to come into Mercer County," she said. "We come there, we publicize it, and people don't come. Now I don't know what the reasons are."
The food went back to the West Ohio bank for use in other areas, she said.
Markham said the food bank is looking for an organization that would allow access to its parking lot where food could be distributed. There is no cost to allow this, she said.
"We want this food to go out into the county," she said. "We know there are many people that are in desperate need of it."
The food bank has 5,000 pounds of shelf-staple foods ready to transport to Mercer County. Any organization interested in providing a drop-off area should call 419-222-7946.
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