By Mike Wertman
Medina Journal-Register — MEDINA — National and statewide surveys may vary in estimating whether or not the economy is rebounding from its several years long slump. However, locally there is one very clear indicator that many are still struggling with today’s very challenging economic situation and that indicator is the empty shelves at the Medina Emergency Food Pantry.
Facing a sharply increased demand for food requests and experiencing a decrease in donations and budget dollars that will not purchase as much food stuffs as in the past, the Food Pantry, which has been located at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church for over 40 years, is struggling to keep up with demands.
“I’ve worked here 25 years and I’ve never seen the shelves this empty. I’ve never seen it like this,” said food pantry volunteer Mary Jane Szczechowiak.
Food Pantry board member James Hancock noted that the pantry served 2,389 people in 2011, which is up nearly 900 from the 2009 total of 1,483. In the first eight months of this year 1,561 have already been served.
“We’re just serving an awful lot more people,” Hancock said. “Unfortunately its really been the perfect storm with requests for help way up, donations down and the price of food rising.”
Staple items such as stew, macaroni and cheese, tuna fish and soup are labeled on the boxes on the shelves, many of which are empty. In addition the pantry’s storage area and freezer are likewise empty.
Maryellen Dale, a food pantry board member, notes that the pantry does get assistance from Food Link in Rochester but that amount of food received has also decreased.
“Food Link gets food at reduced prices but with the cost of food continuing to go up they are not able to purchase as much,” Dale noted. “So many more people are coming in for food and we want to make sure we can serve the people who really need it the most.”
Dale notes that individuals or families seeking food have to fill out an application to determine eligibility.
“It’s the economic conditions,” Hancock said. “A lot of people are still out of work and many on fixed incomes are having increased trouble making ends meet because of rising prices.”
The pantry is open from 10 a.m. to noon every Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. In addition if there is an emergency need for food assistant any local pastor can be contacted.