Help is needed to feed the hungry
The shelves empty quickly at Catholic Charities' St. Martin de Porres Center's food pantry, and help is needed as winter and the holiday season approach.
"We need supplies like crazy," said Carrie Walter, program director.
And that’s also the case – or soon will be – with several other area food pantries: the St. Vincent de Paul Society’s food pantry in Omaha and Simon House in Columbus, the St. Joseph Parish pantry in Walthill and Catholic Charities’ Juan Diego Center in Omaha.
St. Martin de Porres has seen a 700 percent increase in client visits this year for perishable items, and families needing assistance for longer periods of time, so "any and all help is greatly appreciated to meet the growing need," Walter said.
She attributed the increased demand in part to a growing number of people in need moving into north Omaha, including Native Americans and immigrants, and an increased interest in perishables.
"Our biggest need is for meat or the financial donations for us to obtain it," she said. A special need is for new refrigerators or glass front coolers to store perishables.
The need also is great at the St. Vincent de Paul Society pantry in Omaha.
"We’re definitely waiting for the influx of food donations that comes this time of year from our larger parishes, private individuals, schools and our St. Vincent de Paul conferences," said Bruce Noble, pantry manager.
"We had a very large, very generous drive by the U.S. Postal Service that supplied us through the summer, but that’s gone," he said, "so we can use everything we can get right now."
"We’ve hit a low point in canned soups," Noble said, "and need more of the big, hearty ‘meal-in-a-can’ types of soups."
The St. Vincent de Paul pantry also has seen an increase in repeat clients, including Hispanic families, Noble said. "This tells us there are more folks facing food emergencies."
Repeat clients are among factors driving demand at Simon House in Columbus, said Lucy Lutjelusche, director.
"We have more repeat clients, including the long-term unemployed and those awaiting disability benefits, and new immigrants, especially from Cuba, moving into the Columbus area," she said.
In addition to its pantry location, the Simon House holds about four mobile food pantries per year, Lutjelusche said, when truckloads of food ordered from the Omaha Food Bank are brought in and set up in a large hall in Columbus.
"The next one will be December 10, because we really want to get food to people who will need it for the holidays," she said.
Supply and demand are holding steady at Catholic Charities’ Juan Diego Center pantry, in part because warm weather has allowed outdoor laborers to keep working, said Ana Barrios, program director. That delays the usual, seasonal increase in need, she said.
"Supply looks okay right now, but we’re just entering that time of year when there are more family events, so we try to supply a bit more food and some special things like fresh produce, turkeys, cranberry sauce and other items for Thanksgiving meals," Barrios said.
The Juan Diego Center also is an important source of support to an emergency food pantry at St. Joseph Parish in Walthill. Every three weeks, employees from Catholic Mutual Group in Omaha travel a 150-mile round trip to deliver up to 1,500 pounds of food from the center to the parish.
In another outreach program that has become a tradition, the Juan Diego Center will give away free turkeys for Thanksgiving, from 10 a.m. to noon, Nov. 21, Barrios said.
St. Martin de Porres Center's Food Pantry
2111 Emmet St.
Omaha, NE 68110
Monday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.; Tuesday 12:30 to 4:30 p.m.; Friday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Needs: cereal, pasta, juice, peanut butter, jelly, fresh fruits and vegetables, eggs, milk, cheese and meat
Juan Diego Center Food Pantry
5211 S. 31 St.
Omaha, NE 68107
Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, 9:30 to 11:30 a.m.; Wednesday, 4 to 6 p.m.
Needs: fresh produce, jellies and jams, canned fruit, corn, peas and mixed vegetables, turkeys, packaged stuffing mix, and cranberry sauce
St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry
2101 Leavenworth St.
Omaha, NE 68102
Tuesday and Thursday, 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Needs: pinto beans, white rice, cereal, crackers, and personal care items such as shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrushes and soap
St. Joseph Parish
501 Main Street
Walthill, NE 68067
Last two weeks of the month; Tuesdays and Thursday, 3 to 5 p.m.
Needs: any food items, or donate through Catholic Charities
1853 10th Ave.
Columbus, NE 68601
Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Needs: cereal, pasta, hamburger, hamburger helper, jelly, toilet paper, dishwashing liquid, soap and laundry detergent