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Saturday, November 22nd, 2014

More seeking food aid

By Jared Mauch

Kathy Korn, a volunteer at Agape Ministries in St. Marys, stocks shelves in the. . .

The loss of government food assistance is contributing to a growing number of local families seeking help this holiday season.
The Agriculture Act of 2014 decreased Ohio's food stamp benefits, now known as SNAP, by $193 million for 1.847 million people or 16 percent of the population, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
Local food pantries are feeling the impact.
"We typically see people on food stamps come in the third or fourth week of the month because they exhaust their food stamps," said Kathy Bayless, executive director of Agape Ministries in St. Marys.
A recent study by the Ohio Association of Foodbanks found nearly 2 million people - one in six - receive food assistance from the association. About 70 percent of the 6,600 clients interviewed said during the past year they had to choose between buying food or paying utility bills.  
"We have seen a 50 percent increase in people but the donations cannot match," said Lanna Samaniego, who operates a food pantry at the North American Indian Cultural Center in Celina.
She's also noticed an increase in the number of elderly seeking assistance, she said.
"At times there has been a line of people stretching to the office waiting to receive food," Samaniego said, adding she believes the influx of people is due to the economy.
Agape Ministries in 2013 helped more than 25,000 people and the number is projected to be near 28,000 this year, according to Bayless. Unlike some agencies, Agape also offers non-food items such as toilet paper, soap and diapers to the needy, she added.
The Parkway Ministerial Association this year has helped 250 families in the school district, the Rev. Thurlow "Chip" Steffy said.
Despite help with donations from Boy Scout Troop 98, Parkway Local Schools FFA program and Dollar General in Rockford the need is ongoing, Steffy said.
"We get the word out to area churches. Once people hear, they respond. People understand the need and want to help friends and neighbors," he said.
The food pantry of Holy Trinity Catholic Church, Coldwater, helps about 130 families each month, according to Jess Steinke, who operates the facility.
"People receive quite a bit, in the $40 range, for a family of four. They fill two boxes of goods, one for perishable and one for nonperishable goods," he said.
Donations from the church and individuals in the community have kept the pantry stocked this year, Steinke added.
The Rev. Tim Clutter of CALL Food Pantry in Celina said demand is up 15 percent this year; the pantry serves 650 families per month.
"More people come in around the holidays but we see an increase in the amount of giving in the months of November and December," Clutter said.
CALL also operates a backpack program that each Friday serves 260 kindergarten through fourth-grade students in Celina, Parkway and St. Henry schools.
A food pantry operated by Calvary Chapel Baptist Church, Minster, serves 40 families - about 130 people - each month, according to church secretary Vicky Slone. Keeping adequate supplies is not a problem due to the church's partnership with the West Ohio Food Bank of Lima.
The West Ohio Food Bank supplies more than 170 food pantries, soup kitchens and shelters throughout 11 counties in western Ohio. It purchases food and collects donated items that are stored in its 35,000-square-foot facility.
"If it were not for West Ohio Food Bank a lot of shelves would be bare," Samaniego said.
Edna Backs of OUR Home Family Resource Center in Celina said the agency also has experienced an increase in the number of people served each month. OUR Home has helped nearly 80 families per month this year and likely will exceed last year's yearly total of 838 families, she said.
Backs said the agency's pantry is kept stocked by West Ohio Food Bank, local food drives and individual donations.
OUR Home this year is sponsoring its 10th Angel Tree program, which provides gifts to children of income-eligible parents.

Local pantries:
Agape Ministries
1220 E. Spring St., St. Marys
419-394-8700
CALL Food Pantry
420 N. Brandon Street, Celina
419-586-3574
Calvary Chapel Baptist Church
71 N. Hamilton St., Minster
419-628-3717
Holy Trinity Catholic Church food pantry
Mercer Health-West Campus
830 W. Main St., Coldwater
419-678-4802
North American Indian Cultural Center
304 E. Anthony St., Celina
419-586-6567
OUR Home Family Resource Center
117 W. Fayette St., Celina
419-586-4663
Parkway Ministerial Association
at Rockford United Methodist Church
202 S. Franklin St., Rockford
419-363-3230
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