Food pantry busy as ‘food insecurity’ grows in county

Published 11:30 am Thursday, November 6, 2014

It figures to be a busy holiday season for volunteers at Storehouse Community Food Pantry, as the South Street charity gave out more food in fiscal 2014 than it had during the depths of the Great Recession, its president said Wednesday.

The all-volunteer organization doled out non-perishable groceries and certain refrigerated and frozen items to 4,342 people through Sept. 30, Charles Calhoun said during an address to the Vicksburg Lions Club. It represents a 16 percent increase over last year and up from 3,500 or so who received food five years ago.

“That was over 5,000 meals that we gave out,” Calhoun said. “Every penny we have goes to food. We pay an average of $3,000 a month for food. We literally have tons of food, which sounds like a lot. But, two months later, it’s gone.”

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Whereas unemployment and an uncertain economy had created the need for the full-size store for individuals and families, this past year’s crowds at the door was created by chronic “food insecurity,” Calhoun said.

Warren County’s rate of what amounts to a new paradigm for those who don’t know where their next meal will come from is 22.6 percent, according to figures Calhoun cited from Feeding The total exceeds the statewide rate of 22.3 percent, which is tops in the nation.

“It’s not the same as going hungry,” Calhoun said. “It just means you don’t know where it’s going to come from.”

Despite the numbers, help abounds for those who find themselves in financial distress and need help with groceries, Calhoun said. At Storehouse, families and individuals can go in from 10 a.m to noon Mondays and Wednesdays and from 5 to 6 p.m. Thursdays simply show a photo ID and a Social Security card to receive food from the pantry. Recipients are allowed three visits per year and, possibly by Christmas, the pantry will use the “charity tracker” database to ensure each loaf of bread, canned vegetable, pack of pasta and more go to people truly in need, Calhoun said.

“We are in the subsistence mode, we are in the mode of helping people who have periodic needs,” he said, adding other charities such as Keystone Ministries and the Salvation Army feed the needy more often than Storehouse and can afford to be open daily. “It’s hard to starve to death in Vicksburg.”

The pantry began in 2002 and moved into its current digs after it outgrew locations inside the United Way of West Central Mississippi and at the Southern Cultural Heritage Center.