Funding is low, need is high at Havre Food Bank

 


Funding is low, need is high at Havre Food Bank

John Kelleher

It's been a bad year for the Havre Food Bank, and employees and recipients of the food are feeling the effects.

Cash donations are down, federal support has dried up and demand for food is way up, said executive director Penny Velk.

As a result, Velk has been cut back to 30 hours a week and less food is being given to people.

During 2010, 11,000 people benefited from free food, she said,.

"We gave out 2,631 boxes of food," she said.

During the average month, the food bank gives out 219 boxes of food; that's up from 120 per month last year.

Some community groups are stepping forward to help out, but things still look dire in the short run, Velk said.

"We are looking to the community to come up with ideas," she said.

Velk herself has felt the effects of the budget shortfall. She has taken a part-time job at the Boys & Girls Club to offset the 25 percent pay cut she received at the food bank.

And the food bank has cut back its hours. It used to be open 10 a. m. to 1 p. m. and 2 to 4 p. m., but the 2 to 4 p. m. hours were eliminated because Velk is no longer available then.

She said Wal-Mart is providing meat and Albertson's Supermarket in Harlem provides diary products.

"We'd be lost without those two," she said. "We never could provide dairy products," she said.

From the outside, things looked good for the food bank, she said.

The annual Everybody Loves Firefighters program was a success. The door-to-door ELF drive collected more food than ever before, she said.

But the poor economy has resulted in a decline in monetary donations.

The federal stimulus program provided cash to the Montana Food Bank Network, but that money is no longer available.

The Montana Legislature two years ago allocated $1 million to the network, which purchased extra food and doled it out to the 126 food pantries across the state. Food bank supporters are now lobbying with the Legislature to renew the allocation.



And more people are coming through the doors looking for help.

"We are seeing many people for the first time," she said. "We're especially seeing more senior citizens.

"They say they have tried to get along, but they can't hold out any longer," Velk said.

Despite the problems, Velk wants the public to know that the food bank staff appreciates the help the community offers.

Groups ranging from Havre firefighters to Thrivent Financial for Lutherans have provided valuable services to the food bank, and many people make monthly contributions.

"We couldn't get along without this kind of help from the community," she said.

But she understands that some people can't afford to make donations during the tough economic times.

So she hopes other people will step up.

Money is helpful, but if people would like to donate their time, they can help stock shelves and do other chores, she said.

"Some people might think of that as menial," she said. "But it is very important."

Want to help out the Havre Food Bank? Can you donate food, money or your time? Call Penny Velk at 265-2007.

It's been a bad year for the Havre Food Bank, and employees and recipients of the food are feeling the effects.

Cash donations are down, federal support has dried up and demand for food is way up, said executive director Penny Velk.

As a result, Velk has been cut back to 30 hours a week and less food is being given to people.

During 2010, 11,000 people benefited from free food, she said,.

"We gave out 2,631 boxes of food," she said.

During the average month, the food bank gives out 219 boxes of food; that's up from 120 per month last year.

Some community groups are stepping forward to help out, but things still look dire in the short run, Velk said.

"We are looking to the community to come up with ideas," she said.

Velk herself has felt the effects of the budget shortfall. She has taken a part-time job at the Boys & Girls Club to offset the 25 percent pay cut she received at the food bank.

And the food bank has cut back its hours. It used to be open 10 a. m. to 1 p. m. and 2 to 4 p. m., but the 2 to 4 p. m. hours were eliminated because Velk is no longer available then.

She said Wal-Mart is providing meat and Albertson's Supermarket in Harlem provides diary products.

"We'd be lost without those two," she said. "We never could provide dairy products," she said.

From the outside, things looked good for the food bank, she said.

The annual Everybody Loves Firefighters program was a success. The door-to-door ELF drive collected more food than ever before, she said.

But the poor economy has resulted in a decline in monetary donations.

The federal stimulus program provided cash to the Montana Food Bank Network, but that money is no longer available.

The Montana Legislature two years ago allocated $1 million to the network, which purchased extra food and doled it out to the 126 food pantries across the state. Food bank supporters are now lobbying with the Legislature to renew the allocation.

And more people are coming through the doors looking for help.

"We are seeing many people for the first time," she said. "We're especially seeing more senior citizens.

"They say they have tried to get along, but they can't hold out any longer," Velk said.

Despite the problems, Velk wants the public to know that the food bank staff appreciates the help the community offers.

Groups ranging from Havre firefighters to Thrivent Financial for Lutherans have provided valuable services to the food bank, and many people make monthly contributions.

"We couldn't get along without this kind of help from the community," she said.

But she understands that some people can't afford to make donations during the tough economic times.

So she hopes other people will step up.

Money is helpful, but if people would like to donate their time, they can help stock shelves and do other chores, she said.

"Some people might think of that as menial," she said. "But it is very important."

Want to help out the Havre Food Bank? Can you donate food, money or your time? Call Penny Velk at 265-2007.

 

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