Caring Center seeking donations for food distribution

            The St. James Caring Center was informed by the Columbia Food Bank there is a food shortage, which could impact the monthly commodity day. Caring Center Director Nancy Montgomery is asking the community to help by donating food to feed the needy in St. James.

            “The food bank, just like every place else, you watch the news and every food bank is short. So, we’re getting probably two-thirds what we used to get and it’s not the high-quality product lines that we were getting,” Montgomery explained. “We are in need of specific things to fill our food warehouse again and be able to supply the people.”
            Montgomery said it is a nationwide issue where food banks have been hit hard and there is less products to be distributed. “Personal donations are not coming in and I know people, in their own households, are struggling,” she explained. Due to the shortages, she said facilities like the Caring Center, which provides benevolent services for those in need, have to depend on local donations to help meet the need.
            She pointed to the strain on locally owned business, which have seen costs rise due to inflation and lack of product availability and said the Caring Center is facing the same difficulties. “If everybody would contribute a small amount, then that would be wonderful. I know some businesses could. Some businesses are struggling just keeping their doors open,” Montgomery said.
            This strain has made it even more difficult, Montgomery said, when asking for local donations as the stress is already affecting many of the businesses and individuals who normally give.
            She also has seen a decline in the quality of food the food bank has been able to send to aid with commodity day and is wanting to be able to provide higher quality to the community.
            “We get an 18-wheeler truck and it won’t be as full as normal. Then, on commodity day morning, we get what’s called a mini-mobile. Used to, we would get six, eight, 10 pallets of food, quality food, and fresh vegetables and fruits. Last time, we got four pallets and one of them was soda,” Montgomery explained.
            She was told by the driver there was nothing else to give, so the driver brought a pallet of soda to at least provide something.
            “Normally, we don’t hand out soda, but we did because we didn’t have anything else. And, that is not high quality food. To me, that’s junk food. They (the community) don’t need soda. They need meat and green beans, and corn, and spaghetti sauce, and noodles, and cheese, and cereal,” she said.
            The Caring Center is asking for anyone who can donate to bring in canned green beans, corn, peas, potatoes, cereal, canned meats such as tuna, chicken, Vienna sausages, spam, macaroni and cheese, spaghetti, and kids food to donate for local distribution.
            “That is where the struggle is right now, getting enough food to hand out. Our carts are normally overflowing on commodity day. They were maybe full, but not overflowing like they should be,” she said.
            Montgomery said local farmers can donated processed meat and the facility can use that as well. “We are short on food, specifically meat. So, if there is a farmer who wants to donate a cow, it has to be USDA processed, but we have one volunteer that is giving us half a cow and it is going to be processed into hamburger. It is going to save us a tremendous amount of money in the kitchen at the Senior Center because we’ll be able to use that processed hamburger in our meals we serve,” she said.
            The facility is continuing to solicit donations from various churches and organizations, but Montgomery said there is a very real need due to the dwindling supply from the food bank, which makes up the majority of what is handed out. “It is a very dire situation,” she said.
            In July, the facility distributed food, hygiene, and cleaning supplied to 256 families, which Montgomery said comes to nearly one-fourth of the population of St. James, when you consider the number of parents and children the facility provides assistance to.
            “If 100 people bring us 10 cans of green beans, that’s 1,000 cans of green beans,” she said. Montgomery added the community is always a big supporter of the facility and she believes if everyone gives a little, the facility will be able to continue to provide to provide high quality food to those in need until the food banks get back to regular operation.
            Anyone interested in donating can bring their items to the facility during regular business hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday. To learn more, contact Nancy Montgomery at 573-265-2047 extension 4.