OTTUMWA — Recent reports from around the state have shown a significant increase in the amount of households that are in need of assistance with buying groceries and meals. In Ottumwa, this trend holds true.
In a Tuesday news release, the Salvation Army of the Des Moines metropolitan area said they provided groceries and meals to more than 10,200 households out of two different food pantries during its fiscal year that came to an end on Sept. 30. They also served more than 98,200 meals during their homeless feeding program on Tuesdays and Fridays.
Both of those statistics are reasonably higher than in previous years. The households requiring help from the Salvation Army have increased by 10 percent from the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2012, and the number of meals provided through the homeless feeding program has increased more than 21 percent since 2011.
In Ottumwa, the Salvation Army sends those in need of groceries and meals to the Ecumenical Lord’s Cupboard located at First United Methodist Church on East Fourth Street. Jessica Milner, the director of the Lord’s Cupboard, has also seen an increase in the number of families in need of groceries.
In September, the Lord’s Cupboard served 258 families, far higher than the 176 that were served in September 2012. In addition, there were more families in need in September than August, which generally is not the case, according to Milner.
If she had to guess, there are several possibilities as to why she has seen an increase in families coming to the Lord’s Cupboard.
“The cut in food stamps; I think that’s part of it,” she said. “We’re able to give away more produce thanks to community gardens.”
According to Milner, being able to provide more produce to the community has probably had something to do with their increase in numbers. When added to the recent government shutdown and the cut in food stamps, more people are in need of the services the Lord’s Cupboard offers.
After government officials decided to implement the shutdown, the Lord’s Cupboard inventory took a big hit, especially with baby food and supplies. At one point, there were just a few jars of food and a box of wipes left, but thanks to generous donations by members of the community, they were able to refill their products.
“It’s amazing how this community has rallied,” Milner said.
As long as the government continues to be shut down and food stamps are taken away, more of an increase in the amount of people going to the Lord’s Cupboard could continue. According to Beth Woodard of the Salvation Army, hopefully they will have a reserve pantry in case those needing food can’t wait until the hours that the Lord’s Cupboard is open, which will help the community continue to weather the storm.
— To see reporter Josh Vardaman's Twitter feed, go to @CourierJosh