Needs vary at food pantries in archdiocese

An increase in homelessness and seasonal unemployment are fueling a greater need for food donations heading into the holiday season at Catholic Charities’ Juan Diego Center food pantry in south Omaha.

"We can see the need increasing," said Ana Barrios, pantry director. "We see more homeless people living in their cars or garages, so we’re trying to provide food that doesn’t need a lot of preparation."

Personal items and goods to help people on fixed incomes are among the needs at other food pantries in Omaha and Columbus as they prepare for the holidays – Catholic Charities’ St. Martin de Porres Center and St. Vincent de Paul Society’s food pantry, both in Omaha; the society’s Simon House in Columbus; and the food pantry at St. Joseph Parish in Walthill.

Food drives at several parishes and produce donated by area grocers have helped the Juan Diego Center, but the center still needs canned fruits and vegetables, potatoes, pasta and other items for food baskets to help families enjoy a Thanksgiving Day meal, Barrios said. Cash donations through Catholic Charities will help the pantry purchase hams and turkeys.

The baskets will be given away to people who qualify on a first-come, first-served basis beginning at 9:30 a.m. Nov. 20, Barrios said. Contact the center for more details.

St. Martin de Porres Center’s food pantry in north Omaha is well supplied with canned and packaged food and juice, thanks to the 23rd annual food drive for the pantry conducted at St. Wenceslaus School in Omaha. Students from the school delivered and unloaded 22,000 pounds of food at the pantry Oct. 24, 31 and Nov. 7.

Remaining needs include meat, dry beans and rice, said Brett Goings, building and pantry coordinator.

At Simon House thrift store and pantry in Columbus, Lucy Lutjelusche, manager, said she is seeing more elderly and disabled clients on fixed incomes.

"We always have plenty of canned goods, but we’ve had to buy cereal, pancake mix, syrup and skillet dinners," she said. "And we have plenty of peanut butter, but no jelly."

Personal care items also are needed, Lutjelusche said, such as toilet paper, toothpaste, toothbrushes, tissues and laundry soap.

Diapers and other personal care items also are needed at St. Joseph Parish pantry in Walthill, said Kathy Foley, a missionary from Maryland at the parish and treasurer of the food pantry consortium of the Eastern Thurston County Ministerial Alliance, which includes the parish.

Although there is no notable trend in demand, she said, the pantry, serving the Omaha and Winnebago Indian reservations, can always use canned goods, rice, dried beans and macaroni and cheese.

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