PLATTSBURGH — Two days into 2014, 23 Clinton County households representing 79 people received a four-day supply of food from the Plattsburgh Interfaith Food Shelf.
Volunteers Ron Dumas, Joe Monette and Steve Novacich stacked foodstuffs in the pantry of the Plattsburgh United Methodist Church after a recent run to the Food Shelf’s warehouse on the U.S. Oval.
“We’ve been averaging about 660 household visits per month and around 2,000 people per month that we are serving,” said Dorothy Latta, co-coordinator with Dot Crawford.
“It’s up quite a bit. I haven’t looked at the final numbers for the end of December but by the end of November, we were up over 1,600 people relative to 12 months the year before. So we had already exceeded 2012 by the end of November. We’re probably up 14 percent or so relative to last year.”
Latta attributes the rise to a constellation of factors.
“I think the local economy in general and with that over the last year we’ve had higher costs of living in terms of gas prices,” she said.
“We’ve all been to the grocery store. My groceries have gone up. I think two things that have happened recently that we may or may not see an impact, the changes in the funding for the SNAP Program, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, what used to be known as Food Stamps. They had received in 2011, I believe it was, some additional stimulus money and that ended at the end of October. So people really reverted back to the levels they were a few years ago and that came to a decrease of about $11 a person. So a household of four are getting about $45 less, which is pretty significant with the food.”
Dec. 29, 2013, marked the end of long-term unemployment benefits for 1.3 million Americans.
“I don’t know if that affects our clients or not but it potentially could,” Latta said. “But I think it’s just, in general, this area. We are seeing a lot of households that are moving in with each other. We’re looking at different things. Family members are moving in together. We’re seeing that kind of combination of things as well.”
Clinton County residents are allowed seven visits per year to the Food Shelf located at the Plattsburgh United Methodist Church on Beekman Street.
“At each visit, we give each household approximately four days of worth of food for emergency purposes,” Latta said. “We do not have any financial requirements because again we’re not a real assistance program in the respect of continued assistance. We’re here for emergencies, for a safety net. So, they can come seven times a year. If they use up their seven visits, if they come back we have a very limited amount of food we will be able to provide them.”
The Food Shelf spends approximately $12,000 a month on food.
“We purchase most of our food through a regional food bank (Latham, N.Y.) where we can get cheaper prices, better prices,” Latta said. “We get a delivery from there about once a month, and then each month we get about 25,000 pounds of food that comes in. It’s a lot of food. When we have food drives anytime food is donated that is a can of corn that we don’t have to buy.”
Seventy-five percent of the organization’s revenues are derived from individual donations from community members.
“We have a few regional grants from New York state but over 75 percent of our money is from local donations,” Latta said.
“In 2013, the operating budget was $138,000. We also spend 95 percent of our budget on food. The remaining 5 percent is spent on operating expenses but we’re all volunteers.”
Food Shelf Treasurer Gerry Egan entered the building with a load of bread, which he unloaded and placed on vibrant plastic trays.
“We’ve made some changes in our food distribution,” Latta said. “We used to offer a few of what we called extra things like salad dressing, mayonnaise and ketchup. We have had to not offer that any longer. We try to focus food on the plate and not necessarily in the pantry just to be able to have the resources to give everybody some food.”
Email Robin Caudell:firstname.lastname@example.org
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Plattsburgh Interfaith Food Shelf. HOURS: 9 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday; additional Friday hours 4 to 6 p.m. Closed holidays.
WHERE: Plattsburgh United Methodist Church, 127 Beekman St.