The holidays are the season for food pantry donations and can drives.
But then basketball season starts. Families make spring break plans. Summer approaches, along with baseball season and camping trips. As people get busy, food pantries and soup kitchens slip further to the back of the public’s mind until Thanksgiving.
On Friday, the food pantry shelves at Salvation Army of Wake County on Capital Boulevard were nearly empty. About 12 families were referred to other agencies last week because there were simply not enough groceries to go around.
The Salvation Army serves about 50 families each week by appointment, supplying them with a week’s worth of groceries.
Lydia Corbitt, a Salvation Army crisis case manager, said she had seen some fairly empty pantry shelves during the summers in her 14 years on the job but never as bare as they were on Friday.
“I had to tell people we weren’t taking appointments,” Corbitt said. “We help people on food stamps, those who are unemployed, and some have illness in the family. There was disappointment and desperation.”
The organization issued a public cry for help Friday, and people responded. Monday, there were groceries overflowing into the aisles as staff rearranged to create more room on the shelves.
“It’s incredible,” Corbitt said. “This is so cool.”
About 25,000 food items came in over the weekend, said spokeswoman Lizzy Adams.
“There was an incredible response on Twitter,” Adams said. “People were challenging each other saying, ‘How many bags can you fill?’ ”
John Welch of Urban Ministries of Wake County said there is definitely an up-and-down pattern with public food donations. They always drop after the holidays and during the summer, Welch said, even though summer is when demand goes up because students are on summer break and don’t have access to school lunch programs.
Urban Ministries supplies about 1,800 pounds of groceries to about 50 families a day, Welch said. About half of its supplies come from public donations, while institutional donors provide the rest.
“We are holding our own pretty well right now,” he said. “We are not full and not empty.”
To spread food donations more evenly throughout the year, Urban Ministries started a 52-week food drive, asking the usual group donors – sports teams, churches, businesses – to adopt the pantry for the same week each year.
The Scout troops in Durham County are doing their part by holding a “Scouting for Food” outreach in their communities. From April 6 through May 8, the Scouts will collect food donations by hanging bags on their neighbors’ doorknobs with designated pickup dates. The public also is invited to drop donations from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. April 11, 18 and 25 at the Durham Lions Club Scout Center, 1850 Hillandale Road.
The scouts will give their collections to Urban Ministries and Catholic Charities in Durham.
Terry Foley, program director of Catholic Parish Outreach, said its pantry ministry has given out fewer groceries per family each year since 2011 because of a decrease in financial and food donations and the continued increase in demand. The Catholic Charities pantry serves about 820 families a week in Wake, Johnston and Franklin counties.
“We’ve had to cut way back on what we are giving,” Foley said. “But it is such a blessing that in 38 years we have never run out of groceries.”
Where to donate
Salvation Army of Wake County: 1863 Capital Blvd. in Raleigh, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday.
Urban Ministries: 1390 Capital Blvd., 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday.
Catholic Charities: 2013 N. Raleigh Blvd. in Raleigh, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday.
Durham Lions Club Scout Center: 1850 Hillandale Road in Durham, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. April 11, 18 and 25.