Tough economic times force many area families to choose between paying for utilities, medicine, gasoline or food.
Cooperstown Food Pantry Co-director Audrey Murray said visits are up 5 percent compared to 2011 and emergency food assistance is provided to an average of 200 families. She said in October, 225 families (825 people) were assisted.
The number of those needing assistance has been on the rise for quite a few years. For example, the average number of household visits in 2007 was 109, and in 2011 was 192. The total number of new client households increased by 22 percent from 2010 to 2011. It should be noted that in 2008, The Cooperstown Food Pantry reduced its area coverage to include just the northern two-thirds of Otsego County, numbers before that include all of Otsego County.
“We saw the most clients ever in Nov. 2011 with our number at 255,” Murray said. “This month we are at 228 and we have three shifts left.”
November and December are typically the busiest months of the year for the Cooperstown Food Pantry, according to Murray. She said many are hit with heating costs this time of year, having to fill their oil tanks for the first time. The holidays can add additional financial pressures and gas prices are still high; that has been effecting people’s pocketbooks for a while, she continued.
At this time last year shelves were particularly bare because the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York could not fulfill orders because of high demand for food from flood victims.
“The flood played a big role in need for assistance last year,” Murray said. “Although most were not forced out of their homes, a lot of families took in a number of family members and friends who were. This resulted in large groups coming in. Also, people were affected by power outages. People who could least afford it lost freezers and refrigerators full of food.”