Pantries feeling the pinch

The fall season brings a bevy of traditional imagery to mind vibrant colors, brisk mornings and, of course, Thanksgiving and the other bounties of the harvest season.

But as the holidays appear around the bend, area food pantries are preparing for what tends to be a time of increased need. And with the far-reaching implications of the faltering economy, some are already stretching themselves as it is.

People just can't make it, there's so many bills to pay, and last year's heating bills were so high you choose to either buy food or pay a bill," said Jane Sanders of the Bethlehem Food Pantry, a division of the town's Senior Services department.

This September, the pantry served 42 families, up from 26 two years ago. Considering the fact some users have left her pantry for other options closer to their homes, Sanders estimated that the need for pantry services has doubled in town, while donations have simultaneously diminished.

"We used to pride ourselves on being totally supported by the community," said Sanders. Now, like many other pantries, the Bethlehem Food Pantry relies on organizations like Food Pantries for the Capital District as an outlet for low-cost supplies.

At the Venture Churches Food Pantry, organizers are busy collecting items to put into Thanksgiving and Christmas baskets for needy families that might otherwise not have a holiday meal. More than100 families are signed up for the program, a figure that Co-Director Tricia Kandefer-Margic expects will go up before the holidays arrive.

"With the economy the way it is this year, I think the need is increasing," she said.

The Venture Pantry, which is located at the First Reformed Church of Bethlehem in Selkirk, covers areas of Glenmont, Selkirk, South Bethlehem and Feura Bush. Glenmont Community Church and South Bethlehem Methodist Church are also members of the pantry program, and are pivotal in collecting the donations that serve 25 to 30 families each month.

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