Appeal funds Spencerport food shelf - Catholic Courier

Appeal funds Spencerport food shelf

When people think of the most poverty-stricken places in the Diocese of Rochester, Spencerport probably is not on most of those mental lists. Yet there are small pockets of poverty sprinkled throughout this community, as there are in most communities, Dick Gallagher recently told the Catholic Courier.

Gallagher is one of several dozen people working through Spencerport Ecumenical Food Shelf to eradicate those pockets, or at least ease the plight of those within them. Run by the nine area churches that make up Spencerport Ecumenical Ministries, the food shelf provides emergency assistance to families struggling to put food on the table, said Gallagher, who belongs to Spencerport’s St. John the Evangelist Parish.

“We’re not as poor as (Rochester), but there are a lot of needy people out there that have very low incomes,” said Gallagher, the food shelf’s treasurer. “Those are really poor people and they’re barely getting by, and there’s a lot of unemployment. It’s all around us.”

Spencerport Ecumenical Food Shelf serves people who live within the boundaries of Spencerport Central School District, which includes pieces of Gates and Greece, and people in North Chili, said Steve Brown, chairman of the food shelf. Families are eligible to receive assistance from the food shelf once every 60 days. They don’t need to provide proof of their income to receive food, Brown said. If they consistently ask for food every 60 days, however, someone from the food shelf will contact the family to talk to them about their monthly income and expenses.

When families find they’re running out of money for food, they don’t visit the food shelf. Instead, they call the food shelf at 585-277-4917, which is a pager number. A volunteer driver then delivers food to the family within 24 hours, and sometimes in as little as 10 minutes, Brown said.

“They’ll call our pager. I call back and find out some information about the family, (such as) where they live and how many are in the family,” he said. “We have a driver that is on (call) for a week at a time. I call the driver and tell them where to go and what to bring, and they bring the food.”

Volunteers meet at the food shelf every Thursday morning to package food into units, which each contain enough food for two or four people. A typical unit for two people will contain more than 50 items, including canned fruit, vegetables, and chicken or fish; soup; peanut butter and jelly; cereal or pancake mix and syrup; ramen noodles; cake mix; 16 tea bags; and one bar of soap and two rolls of toilet paper.

“Everyone gets pretty much the same food. No one can ask for things,” Brown said.

Food shelves that allow clients to visit and pick out their own items seem to run out of the more popular or expensive items quickly, while less popular items may sit on the shelf for a long time, Brown observed. The delivery system also allows drivers to verify that recipients are residents of Spencerport or North Chili, he said.

The prepackaged unit system also allows Spencerport Ecumenical Food Shelf to function efficiently, Brown added. Since these units are packaged ahead of time, drivers simply have to pick them up and bring them to the waiting family.

The food shelf doesn’t distribute perishable food items, Gallagher noted. Instead, it provides Wegman’s gift cards so the family members can pick out what they want to eat. A family of four usually will receive $35 in Wegman’s gift cards, Brown said.

Last year, the food shelf purchased many of those gift cards with the help of a $900 Hunger Relief grant it received. These grants are partially funded using proceeds from the annual Catholic Courier/Catholic Charities Christmas Appeal. The appeal, now in its 40th year, raises money for the emergency funds of various Catholic Charities offices and other affiliated agencies throughout the diocese.

The grant came in especially handy because Spencerport Ecumenical Food Shelf now spends about $100 more than normal every month or two on gift cards,” Gallagher said.

“The economy is bad, and we’re seeing a lot of calls,” he remarked.

Indeed, the recession has increased the local demand for food assistance, Brown added. The food shelf has 140 active families on its list of food recipients, and lately volunteer drivers have been making between eight and 10 deliveries a week.

“In the last year we got tons of new families,” Brown said. “The calls have gone up drastically in the last year. Even in the last month or two it’s gone up.”

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