Food pantries

Monday, March 28, 2005

Regardless of the season, food pantries across Southeast Missouri serve a vital need in their communities.

Hundreds of local families wouldn't have access to nutritious food if it weren't for the assistance they receive from local food pantries. Statistics show that 7.7 percent of U.S. households are at risk of hunger, which means they don't have enough food. Another 3.5 percent of U.S. households -- many of them with children -- lack enough food to feed the family, so some members skip meals or go without entirely so that others might eat.

This simply shouldn't happen.

Volunteers at area food pantries know their services aren't enough to keep needy families well-fed throughout the year. But they do offer aid in tough times. Many of the people getting help are there because they've lost a job, had an unexpected medical emergency or simply can't afford all the food their family needs.

These sort of emergencies were exactly what prompted Red Star Baptist Church to start its food pantry in 1993 during a flood. But the church quickly realized that the need existed long after the waters receded. The church receives a grant to help purchase some special-need items, like foods with low-sugar or low-sodium content. It is one of only a few local pantries to offer such items.

As more people realize that food pantries exist to offer help, the pantries will see more need. Donations are always needed to help fill needs as families come for something so many of us take for granted: stocked cabinets and plenty of food.

As the weather turns warmer, many of us will reap the benefits of garden produce. Why not share a bit with our neighbors in need? And remember their needs exist year around, not just for a season.

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