Food bank feeding record numbers

Published 11:01 am Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Gretchen Hopkins, chairman of the board for Franklin Cooperative Ministries, stocks the near empty shelves for the food bank. Supplies are at a 20-year low. GWEN ALBERS/TIDEWATER NEWS

FRANKLIN—Gretchen Hopkins has never seen the shelves at Franklin Cooperative Ministries’ food bank so bare.

“It’s pitiful that we can’t fill the bags, and it’s the holiday season,” said Hopkins, chairwoman for the non-profit’s board of directors and a food bank volunteer.

There’s no spaghetti sauce and jelly in stock.

“Those are two staples we try to put in everyone’s bag,” she said.

Demand from the food bank is the highest in its 20-year history, said Director Veronica Ferguson. Also for the first time in its history, the agency is asking the public for donations of money and food.

“This is not something we do all the time,” Ferguson said.

In 2007, Franklin Cooperative Ministries gave away 387 bags of food for the year. As of Oct. 15 of this year, its has given out 1,300 bags.

About 20 churches in Franklin and Southampton County and the southern portion of Isle of Wight County support the food bank with donations of money and food.

“They do all they can do, but are beginning to struggle,” Ferguson said. “Churches have to meet their budgets. It goes back to the economy. You can’t give if you are not making it.”

The agency traditional buys food to supplement donations.

“We’ve always had to buy food; $100 every two months,” Ferguson said. “Now we’re spending $400 to $500.”

The group provides bags of food valued at $20 each to more than 200 families. Items include peanut butter, jelly, Saltine crackers, pork and beans, tuna fish, canned vegetables and popcorn.

“What’s in a bag is enough to feed you for a day or two,” Ferguson said.

Clients can get food every two months. If things don’t improve, it may be cut back to once every three months.

She blames the increased demand on the economy and job loss.

“Parents are working at different jobs, lower-paying jobs or traveling to Norfolk, Petersburg and Richmond,” Ferguson said.

The food bank at 511 N. Main St. near the Franklin post office is open 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 9 am. to noon on Friday.

For additional information, call Ferguson at 516-6322.