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Local agencies struggle to provide

Economy stalls donations

November 21, 2012
By MIRANDA NEEDS ( , Times-Republican

Throughout the year, local, donation-based organizations operate to provide food for local families and individuals in need. Difficult times are affecting donations, and the number of individuals who seek assistance from organizations such as The Salvation Army, the House of Compassion and the Emergency Food Box.

The Salvation Army's goal is to fulfill an individual's three basic needs: food, clothing and a home.

According to Diane Barker, a social worker at The Salvation Army, this year's donations are down about 30 percent when compared to last year. The Salvation Army food pantry's supply is much lower than they would like this close to the holiday season.

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The Emergency Food Box is just one of several human service agencies seeing a decrease in donations and increase in demand in recent years due to the economy.

They receive their donations from several resources such as Walmart, The Food Bank of Iowa and community food drives.

They mostly receive non-perishable items. However, Marshalltown's Walmart donates produce and bakery items. These items are available Monday through Friday after 1 p.m. at The Salvation Army on State Street in Marshalltown and are distributed on a first come, first serve basis. According to Barker, the food set out doesn't last long as sometimes it is gone within minutes.

"It can get kind of scary." Barker said. "We have had arguments break out."

Fact Box

If you want to donate ...

The Salvation Army

Needs: Non-perishable food items (canned goods, boxed dinners, and pasta)

How to help: Bring donations to The Salvation Army (107-109 W. State St., Marshalltown)

Contact: Diane Barker at 641-753-5236

The House of Compassion

Needs: Non-perishable food items, paper goods (paper towels, toilet paper), personal care items (shampoo, body wash, razors)

How to help: Bring donations to The House of Compassion (211 W. Church St., Marshalltown)

Contact: Jean Bergen, HOC Director, at 641-752-5999

The Emergency Food Box

Needs: Non-perishable food items

How to help: Bring donations to the Emergency Food Box (109 S. Third St., Marshalltown)

Contact: Jackie Patterson at 641-753-0486

The Emergency Food Box is another local organization that offers non-perishable food items to those in need. However, it focuses solely on urgent and emergency situations and serves by referral only. An individual can obtain a referral through any local human service agency, a pastor or a doctor's office. Human service agencies could include, but are not limited to, Mid Iowa Community Action, Department of Human Services or Woman, Infants and Children (WIC).

One referral may be used per household every 60 days for the food box. They offer mostly canned goods. However, an arrangement with the Sixth Street Kwik Star in Marshalltown allows them to provide milk. The Marshalltown Hy-Vee donates bread as well. Items are distributed in a four-day supply based on family size.

Due to the current economic crunch, the number of donations has fallen this year, and the Emergency Food Box continues to see more new families in need. The food box continues to be grateful for and all donations.

"We have been blessed," said Jackie Patterson, board member. "Marshall County has been a generous area."

The House of Compassion operates in a slightly different manner from the other organizations. "

It is hard to compare us to The Salvation army or the Food Box because our food is offered in-house in our soup kitchen. Everyone is welcome to eat until they are full or until the food runs out," said Jean Bergen, director of the House of Compassion.

Along with prepared meals, the House of Compassion offers other basic necessities such as toilet paper, paper towels, soaps and shampoos, diapers and over-the-counter medications. These items are distributed to those in need once per month based on family size. The House of Compassion receives the majority of its donations from the community as well as the Food Bank of Iowa, Hy-Vee and Sysco. While the number of donations this year has been consistent with the donations of previous years, the number of those in need has risen.

Even with all of these resources, local families are still struggling to put food on the table, and with the holidays approaching, the need is only more obvious.

"Times are getting harder," Barker said. "We hope that the holidays inspire the community."



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