Food donations dwindle in summer

Mary Blythe, a senior employee at The Salvation Army, 946 N.H., opens one of the cabinets in the food pantry to show the shelter's dwindling stock of food.

How to help

Donations of food, diapers, clothing or money are accepted at the following community food pantries:

¢ The Salvation Army, 946 N.H., 843-4188.

¢ Trinity Interfaith Food Pantry, 1011 Vt., 843-6166.

¢ Penn House, 1035 Pa., 842-0440.

¢ Ballard Community Center, 708 Elm., 842-0729.

It’s hard to ignore the soaring gasoline and food prices these days.

While most residents can adjust their budgets by cutting back on extras such as eating out or summer vacations, others are struggling to survive.

“It is very, very hard,” said Lawrence resident Rebecca Frazier, 31, whose family of six is on a tight income and can’t afford to fix the air conditioning. They also have a tough time filling the cupboards.

Unfortunately, donations to nonprofit organizations that help families like the Fraziers tend to ice over during the summer.

Last week, The Salvation Army had to temporarily close its food pantry because of a lack of donated goods.

“I’ve had quite a few come in this month who say they have nothing,” said Holly Hulburt, social worker at The Salvation Army. “So I think the food situation is getting worse. It’s to the point now where people are telling me we either have groceries, or we pay the bills or we buy gas. It’s getting worse, and I’m sure it’s going to get worse.”

Summer is especially hard for families with children, like the Fraziers, who depend on school breakfast and lunch programs to help make ends meet.

“There are three meals parents have to worry about instead of just dinner,” Frazier said.

In turn, Lawrence food pantries are pressured to help more.

“Summertime – their mind is on vacation, getting out of school, they just aren’t thinking about food drives,” Hulburt said of the public. “We definitely need people to step up to the plate and organize something.”

Kansas University student groups often have drives to help keep their shelves stocked. The U.S. Postal Union and Boy Scouts conduct food drives before the summer begins to prevent closures like the one at Salvation Army. The drives also assist Ballard Community Services and the Penn House, nonprofit organizations that provide assistance with food, clothing, rent and utilities.

Paul Hunt, director of Ballard, said he has had small food donations, but is in need of funding to help with rent and utilities.

In June, Ballard Community Center had more than 100 phone calls requesting assistance, but with a tight budget they could only help between five and seven families.

“We’re constantly trying to raise money to support this program,” Hunt said.

He said a “little bit of money when a lot of people” contribute, can go a long way to help those in need.

Frazier, who volunteers at the Penn House, agreed.

“Whether it’s food or money, we can always use it here because families like mine really do appreciate (it),” she said. “Every little bit helps. It might not seem like much if you have $5, but that $5 can go a long ways.”