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Need grows during economic slowdown

Submitted Photo A worker at Chautauqua County Rural Ministry in Dunkirk prepares meals for take-out.

OBSERVER Staff Report

Last week 24 families showed up to the Salvation Army food pantry in Dunkirk. According to Maj. Chris Ramirez, it was six times the normal daily average.

Pain is already hitting home for many families as layoffs from businesses begin flowing in. Besides the Salvation Army, the Chautauqua County Rural Ministry also is being called on in these desperate and uncertain times.

Located at 319 Washington Ave., Rural Ministry is distributing meals through its emergency food programs.

The Friendly Kitchen is providing prepared meals to those in need during the following times: Breakfast: 8:30 to 9:15 a.m. and lunch and dinner meals are available 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Meals are individually packed and a meal is available for each member of the family.

Diane Haggins, kitchen manager, reported that more families are coming to get the prepared meal packages and are available to anyone in need of food assistance.

“Many families who have never been in need before are looking for help wherever they can get it.,” said Ramirez of the Salvation Army.

Some of the steps the Salvation Army is taking includes:

¯ Increased hours — In addition to opening three mornings a week for walk-ins and two evenings a week for appointments to those who cannot make the walk in times, there are new senior hours. “This week we added Tuesday and Thursday mornings from 9 to 11 a.m. for seniors. We are able to deliver to seniors who cannot get out on a limited basis, as well,” Ramirez said.

¯ Prepackaged orders — “Our new policy, to protect the public as well as our volunteers, is minimal contact,” Ramirez said. A prepackaged box contains a three-day supply of food as well as any additional items that are on hand. The sign-in and application process has also been abbreviated. According to Ramirez, “There are a few details that we absolutely must have, however, much of the application can be completed by a follow up telephone call. We are just trying to make a very difficult time a little easier for everyone. We anticipate folks who do not usually need to access the pantry stopping in. If the coronavirus pandemic has placed you out of work, call us 366-3701.”

¯ Donations are needed — The agency is accepting donations of non-perishable items. Some of the most requested things are dry milk, toiletries, and cleaning supplies. “Anything that you might purchase for groceries is especially needed by displaced workers in our community. Whatever we can supply them will help them to save money for expenses such as utility bills and rent,” Ramirez said.

¯ Financial donations needed — “This week we had a family with infant twins who have a prescription for a specific formula. We didn’t have it in the pantry, but we were able to purchase it for them. Boxes to pre-pack food are being purchased,” she said. “Just like all other public buildings, we are spending more on cleaning supplies to sanitize the building and keep everyone safe.”

¯ Volunteers needed — The agency is scheduling small groups of two to four and prefer families or people would already be in close contact at home. “Volunteers are kept to the back of the building and pantry doors are kept shut so that they do not have contact with visitors to the pantry.”

Rural Ministry’s emergency food pantry also has pre-packed food bags containing non-perishable items for those in need as well. The pantry is open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Fridays from 8 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. and on Wednesdays from 8 a.m. to noon. Families and individuals in need of food assistance cam come to the offices to pick up their meals or call 366-1787 for more details.

Rural Ministry is diligent in using all food safety and sanitation policies, limiting the number of people in the facility and wearing protective gear.

Chautauqua County Rural Ministry is a United Way of Northern Chautauqua County Community Partner and is also funded by New York State Department of Health Hunger Prevention and Nutritional Assistance Program.

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