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Jackie Kmiecik (center back) of St. Bernadette Parish in Bellevue and a volunteer at the St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry in Omaha helps Maria Garcia (right) and family members Francisca Garcia (in pink sweater) and Joselin Garcia select produce at the pantry Nov. 8. Pantry worker Maryana Garza (left) looks on. The pantry is one of several in the archdiocese that help working families, the homeless and others. MIKE MAY/STAFF

Mike Magnuson of Saving Grace Perishable Food Rescue, right, passes food items to Jerry Brocky of the St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry in Omaha. Saving Grace donates food it collects from local grocers, restaurants and schools. MIKE MAY/STAFF

Working families among those who struggle during holidays

Routine visitors to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul food pantry in downtown Omaha include the working poor, families from all ZIP codes in the Omaha area and the homeless.

“We see so many working families, who for one reason or another need help supplementing their food budget,” said Diane Mead, president of the society’s Omaha district council. The pantry offers canned goods and packaged items, but also meat, milk and as much produce as possible, which are greatly appreciated, she said. 

And whether it is a single parent working two jobs or both parents working full time, often a family will find their paychecks are stretched thin by one unexpected bill or another – and that can mean less food on the table, said Lucy Lutjelusche, manager of the Simon House thrift store and pantry in Columbus.

Going into the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, similar stories can be heard at food pantries in Walthill, as well as south and north Omaha. Providing special meals during the holidays is important, but needs are great for many families year-round.

People working at each of those pantries encourage donations – now and every other day of the year. 

“Prescriptions, an unexpected medical bill or a higher-than-usual utility bill all cut into the family food budget, bringing families to our door,” Lutjelusche said.

Families also visit with needs that go beyond food, she said. They also hope to find diapers, cleaning supplies, and personal care items such as soap and deodorant.

Missionary Benedictine Sister Deana Case, director of the St. Joseph Parish food pantry in Walthill, said she visits with people needing shampoo and laundry soap.

The pantry, which serves residents of the area, including members of the Omaha and Winnebago tribes in northeastern Nebraska, normally is open on Tuesdays and Thursdays in the last two weeks of every month. 

But under pressure from growing needs, people have been coming more often, and parish officials help when they can.

“The need is so great we have people coming to the pantry every week,” Sister Deana said.  Along with fresh meat, dried beans and rice, she said the pantry could use potatoes, corn, soups, cereal and pasta.

At the Juan Diego Center in south Omaha and St. Martin de Porres Center in north Omaha, tomato paste, tuna and peanut butter are among needed items.

“Financial donations are also very helpful to a pantry,” particularly as it tries to offer a balanced diet, said Ana Barrios, director of emergency food services at both pantries. 

“Because if we find we are missing certain items such as fresh produce or meat, then we can go out and make a purchase to supplement.”

WANT TO HELP?

Places and times to make food and other donations to:

St. Martin de Porres Food Pantry: 2111 Emmet St., Omaha, NE 68110, 402-453-6363, Monday and Friday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.; Tuesday, 12:30 to 4:30 p.m.

Juan Diego Center Food Pantry: 5211 S. 31st St., Omaha, NE 68107. 402-731-5413, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, 9:30 to 11:30 a.m.; Wednesday, 4 to 6 p.m.

St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry: 2101 Leavenworth St., Omaha, NE 68102, 402-779-8499, Tuesday and Thursday, 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

St. Joseph Parish: 501 Main St., Walthill, NE 68067, 402-878-2402, Last two weeks of the month; Tuesday and Thursday, 3 to 5 p.m.

Simon House: 1853 10th Ave., Columbus, NE 68601, 402-564-8444, Monday through Friday, 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Saturday by appointment only.

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