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Monday, May 2, 2016

Mid-Sioux closes food pantry, makes local referrals

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

(Photo contributed) Le Mars Cub Scout Alexander Buman, left, and Boy Scout BJ Mairose hand out fliers asking people to donate items to the Christian Needs Center during an event last Saturday. Demand, including an increase from the closure of Mid-Sioux Opportunity's food pantry, is up at the Christian Needs Center. The Scouts and other groups collected food last week to help the local center, which relies on donations to fill its shelves.
>Mid-Sioux Opportunity, Inc. is no longer operating a food pantry in its Le Mars outreach office, but people are still being served.

Now, food vouchers given to qualifying individuals and families can be redeemed at the Christian Needs Center, in Le Mars.

Those in need are also directed to other food banks such as area churches, the Food Bank of Siouxland, and Zestos, a faith-based nonprofit food distribution organization.

Tom Toel, a member of the Boy Scout Troop 184, picks up a bag of food from a Le Mars residence during a food collection event last Saturday. Toel's troop and the Cub Scout pack collected 371 items, down from previous years.
Dick Sievers, Mid-Sioux Opportunity executive director, said cuts in the number of hours the Le Mars outreach office is open led to closing the food pantry.

"We work well with the other entities anyway so why not reduce some of the cost of having the food pantry and let the local folks do it," Sievers said. "So far it's working well."

He explained that Mid-Sioux's food pantry, which closed Sept. 1, was stocked with donated items from local sources such as Scout troops, churches and schools.

"When people came to us, we could make up a food box," Sievers said. "Now we say 'we don't have any, go to a church or the Christian Needs Center.'"

Closing the food pantry in the Le Mars means Mid-Sioux staff can focus their limited hours in the office on other needs people may have, he said.

"The food distribution, clothing centers are pretty labor intensive," Sievers said. "We felt that need could be met by other sources."

Barb Waltz, Christian Needs Center coordinator, said the organization has seen an increase in traffic since the Mid-Sioux food pantry closed.

In October, the center provided 59 food boxes, which contain items such as milk, bread, peanut butter, soups and more, she said.

She explained that all the center's food is donated by individuals, churches, local groups and organizations.

"We don't receive any food from the government," Waltz said. "Everything is donated and it's pretty tight."

That is why most of the food at the Christian Needs Center goes to families through the voucher system at Mid-Sioux Opportunity, she said.

"That's not to mean we don't stretch it sometimes to help somebody homeless," Waltz said. "We work with people, but we want to make sure it's getting to the people it needs to go to."

Sometimes, if people come to Christian Needs Center they are directed to other food pantries in the area such as the one at Rejoice! Community Church.

Tina Gray, manager of the church's food pantry, said the number of people served there has risen "drastically" starting in August.

"The number of people we serve has doubled and it seems to be continuing to grow," she said. "Of the people we serve, more than 90 percent are not Rejoice! members."

The Rejoice! food pantry received a United Way grant, which has helped keep the shelves stocked this year, she said.

"We also received a few donations from businesses and other churches, both in cash and in food donations," she said. "Several families within our congregation are also very generous."

Items for the Rejoice! food pantry are purchased with grant or donated dollars from the Food Bank of Siouxland Inc., in Sioux City, and local grocery stores, Gray said.

Rejoice! Community Church is an agency that works with the Food Bank of Siouxland, a nonprofit organization.

The Food Bank of Siouxland serves 11 counties including Plymouth County, partnering with about 125 agencies, said Linda Scheid, executive director of the Food Bank of Siouxland.

"Once we've approved them to be agencies, they can hop on our website and see what we have on our menu," she said.

Like other area food pantries Scheid said she has seen a "huge increase" in demand and coupled with a decrease in donor resources.

The Food Bank of Siouxland recently started a Mobile Pantry Program: Food To You to help meet that demand.

The Mobile Pantry Program serves the Food Bank of Siouxland's rural counties such as Plymouth, where there are not as many resources for those in need, Scheid said.

"On a monthly basis we come and we do a pantry event," she said. "We're up to doing 10 or 11 every month."

People can keep up-to-date on locations for the Mobile Pantry Program on the food bank's website, www.siouxlandfoodbank.org.

The fall and around the holidays are the most popular time for food donations, but it's important to remember that people are hungry year-round, Waltz said.

"We find we get most of our food donations in the months coming up to the holidays," she said. "Those donations we receive through the holiday months gets us through the entire year."

She added that there are individuals and groups who donate to the Christian Needs Center monthly, but the food drives are almost always around the holidays.

Waltz said many parents are trying to teach their children to be more aware of, and empathetic to, other's needs.

"That's why we like to see the kids getting involved in the food drives," Waltz said.

For example, last week Le Mars Boy Scout Troops and Cub Packs 184 and 188 picked up bags of food from people's houses and asked for donations at Fareway, in Le Mars.

Rich Sudtelgte, 184 leader, said said his troop collected 371 items Saturday, which was down from previous years, for the Christian Needs Center.

Last week local Catholic Clusters Religious Education Program ninth and 10th grade students also collected food for the Christian Needs Center.

"We're very thrilled that people are so generous to us," Waltz said.

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