Meadville Tribune

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August 13, 2012

Area food pantries, charities need your help

MEADVILLE — “Times are tough, and about to get tougher for local families,” said Shawnel Lee, Essential Services supervisor at Center for Family Services.

On average, more than 3,000 adults and children benefit from food boxes supplies through the center’s seven food pantries in Crawford County every month. While the boxes aren’t meant to provide a whole month’s worth of food, the box does help stretch a struggling family’s budget.

Unfortunately, the boxes just got lighter, Lee said.

Center for Family Services, a United Way partner agency and Housing and Urban Development-approved Housing Counseling agency, manages the seven pantries, but received a $32,000 cut from the state food program, starting this past July, Lee noted. The center is designated as the lead agency in Crawford County for both the federal and state food programs and this cut means they will be providing one-fourth less food.

“I was able to spend just about the $32,000 every quarter to purchase food for the pantries, and that was with a cut even last year,” Lee said. “If families thought the boxes seemed empty before, wait until they see them now.”

Lee goes on to say: “Many of the people who need the food boxes are working and are trying desperately to feed their families. I just think about all the little empty bellies; it breaks my heart.”

The center is not alone. Many of the area’s local human service agencies are experiencing funding cuts. Such cuts at the Center for Family Services means no food, no help for those facing eviction or foreclosure, and elderly and families with small children without help when utilities are shut off. “It is never good to see people in a desperate situation become more desperate,” Lee said.

How can the community help? Donating food to the center’s pantries or organizing a food drive are great ways, Lee said. Community food drives provide all of the emergency food for the pantries. If anyone wants to plan a food drive, they just need to contact the center.

Also, Tuesday, is Erie Gives Day. The Crawford County center is one of the local agencies included in this one-day event. Donations of $25 or more received online to on Tuesday will get more “bang for the buck” as the Erie Foundation and GE Transportation are donating additional funds for every dollar.

If anyone is not able or comfortable to donate online that day, the center will make the donation for them when they drop it off at the agency, 213 W. Center St., Meadville, before 4 p.m. Tuesday.

“Erie Gives is a tremendous opportunity for our community to help out the families who need it most. We really hope people will take the time to go online or drop off a donation,” said Maria Firkaly of the local center.

Last year, Erie Gives Day raised $771,435 for Erie and Crawford county nonprofits in just one day.

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