Food pantry demand strong

In some ways, the U.P. job market has yet to recover from the 2008 recession.

With lost jobs, food pantry demand has steadily increased in the last five years or so.

“It’s continually going up as jobs get harder to find and people struggle,” Lt. Stephen Hansen of the Ishpeming Salvation Army said. “You know, this long winter really hurt people with their heat bills. We’re seeing even more people looking for that type of assistance, and then they’re having trouble putting food on the table.”

Donations have slowed to a trickle at the Ishpeming Salvation Army and at the Feeding America West Michigan Food Bank in Ishpeming.

But even with that scarcity, the need is so great that Feeding America intends to expand its offerings.

“We’re always desperately in need of funding,” Feeding America West Michigan Food Bank manager Dave Mason said. “However, the need has been very, very great, so we are actually going to step it up a little bit.”

The Food Bank has a long-standing goal of offering two pantry days each month, when people can come in and have food items that they need at no charge.

“Late last year, we went to a single pantry a month, and we’re going to go back up to two a month,” Mason said. “At least for the summer months until the funding holds out, and then we’ll see after that.”

Just a small amount of peanut butter, vegetables or other items can help a great deal.

“I think all of us can spare a canned good or two and help out,” Lt. Hansen said. “We’re not looking for anybody to donate huge amounts of canned goods or money, but if we all do a little bit, it goes a long way.”

So, food banks are asking for as much assistance as the community can provide.