Emergency food pantry runs out of food

September 24, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
A pantry that provides emergency assistance to families and seniors closed Wednesday because it had run out of food.

Local food pantries are literally being forced to turn people away because so many are showing up for help.

A woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, says she used to be a funder for a mortgage company.

"The unemployment money that I'm receiving is going to debt and to rent," says the woman who now needs financial assistance.

The woman receiving vouchers from Christ the King Catholic Ministries, in Pleasant Hill, has taken a 180 degree turnaround.

"So you used to donate?" asks ABC7's Alan Wang.
"To the Alameda County or Contra Costa County Food Bank. I would donate a couple of times a year," says the woman.

Her vouchers are for $25 worth of groceries, two sets of clothes, and a pair of shoes, some bread and a bag of apples to go.

"A bag of groceries and a food voucher for the grocery store is really just enough to carry them over for just a few days. They've got the rest of the month to contend with," says Al Zamolo, from Christ the Kings.

Several of these people were told to come here after the Monument Crisis Center, one of the largest pantries in Contra Costa County, ran out of food.

"And it's really tough. We turned away people all morning long, and we will have to do that until next week if we don't start getting major food donations in," says Sandra Sherer, with the Monument Crisis Center.

There are about 180 pantries in this two-county region, and they buy their food from a main distributer in Concord for 18 cents a pound.

Last year the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano Counties served about 82,000 people each month. This year, that number is up to 98,000. That's 16,000 more people, in need, each month.

It says most of the new recipients are first timers. The working poor who are deciding between buying gas to get to work and food for the family.

"It could happen to anybody. It could happen to you or somebody you know. And you didn't necessarily need any kind of assistance in your past," says the woman.

The food bank says donations are steady, but need is up 20 percent. The question is, can they get more help in these tough economic times?

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