By MARK MISIAK

Contributing Writer



PLATTSBURGH — As the cost of living in the area continues to increase, so do the number of families who are struggling to make ends meet.

When a family begins to fall on hard times, it becomes increasingly difficult to put food on the table.

Due to the rising cost of gas, not only are people required to pay more at the pump, they’re also shelling out a lot more for the food that was transported to local stores.

Several organizations in Clinton, Franklin and Essex counties aim to ensure that no family goes hungry.



NEED UP, GIVING DOWN

The Joint Council for Economic Opportunity of Clinton County, located at 54 Margaret St. in Plattsburgh, has a Food Pantry that is open from noon to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

“On any given day, we can see between 10 and 40 families here at the Food Pantry,” said Jennifer Dashnaw, food and nutrition program coordinator for JCEO. “Lately, we’ve been seeing at least one new family every week.”

Dashnaw, in large part, attributes the increase in need to the steadily rising cost of food.

“People can’t afford to get (in terms of food) what they used to be able to,” she said, adding that as the number of families using the pantry increases, the amount of food available invariably decreases.

“I think it’s a combination of the fact that not as many people are able to donate anymore and more and more people are in need of donations.”

JCEO sees a large portion of its donations come from individuals who leave food in a special collection box at the Plattsburgh Price Chopper. Price Chopper itself also donates large quantities of bread, cookies and buns, all baked in-house.

“We also receive generous donations from other organizations,” Dashnaw said. “The Lions Club just supplied us with a huge donation of apples.”

Families who use the food pantry are given a three-day emergency food box. Dashnaw said JCEO does its best to supply the family with something from all four food groups. “Each family is allowed up to eight visits per year, which can be used at any time,” she said, adding that most families choose to stop in every month or two.



COMMUNITY HELP

The Interfaith Food Shelf, located at United Methodist Church on Beekman Street in Plattsburgh, is another outlet for struggling families.

Open 9 a.m. to noon Mondays, the agency allows people to visit up to six times per year.

“Families can use all six visits in one week if they wanted to,” said Dorothy Crawford, coordinator at the Food Shelf, which helps about 1,000 people a month.

Families get an emergency food box that lasts for about three days.

“The contents of the box depends on the size of the family and what they need,” Crawford said.

The Food Shelf recently completed its annual Feinstein Challenge.

“We brought in about twice as much as last year,” Crawford said. “Donations have slowly started to dwindle, but that’s to be expected after the challenge is finished.”

Plattsburgh Price Chopper also supplies the Food Shelf with baked bread, and Crawford said the Rotary, Lions and Kiwanis clubs are always very generous.

The Food Shelf also accepts individual donations, she said.

“Canned meats, peanut butter, soup, cereal — anything people are willing to donate is very much appreciated.”

Crawford said that although most families they help are from Clinton County, people from Essex and Franklin counties also use their service and donate to the Food Shelf.

Crawford is fearful that as prices of gas and food continue to rise, the Food Shelf will have to deal with less food and more families in need.

“People who used to donate just can’t afford the food and the trip. I had a gentlemen in here who used to donate himself, and now he’s the one looking to us for help.”



NEED IS CLEAR

Comlinks, based in Malone, is another organization whose goal is to support families in need.

Comlinks has donation bins set up in the Malone Post Office and also in the Malone Price Chopper location.

Joyce Boyea, Food Pantry director at Comlinks, said families are allowed to visit the pantry every 30 days and are given a three-day supplemental food supply. They help about 150 families a month.

“Packages include things like meats, cereal, canned fruits and vegetables,” she said, adding that supplies are also sent from the Regional Food Bank in Latham.

“We can also purchase ‘salvage’ food, such as dented cans or crumpled cereal boxes for essentially pennies.”

Boyea hopes people continue to donate, even though their budgets are getting a little more stretched.

“I think people will keep donating. I truly believe that. They know if they needed it, they would want someone to do for them what they are doing for others.”

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