Community crisis Empty shelves, empty stomachs

By on November 13, 2013

By:

PATRICK BURNS Record Express Staff

, Staff Writer



Photo by Patrick Burnsâ?©Beth Trachte stands among the depleted shelves of the food bank repository in the Lititz-Warwick Community Chest pantry located in the basement of St. Paul Lutheran Church, 200 W. Orange St.

Chances are you may have noticed Boy Scouts dotted around the neighborhood last weekend dolling out plastic bags door-to-door while rolling out their annual food donation drive.

But you might not know where those bags go when the Boy Scouts return this Saturday morning to collect them.

That destination is the repository at the Lititz-Warwick Community Chest pantry, located in the basement of St. Paul Lutheran Church, 200 W. Orange St.

It has a lot of empty space these days.

Beth Trachte, pantry coordinator for the group, said the organization has been very successful in reaching families in need – it has upped its food deliveries from 267 in 2005 to 574 last year.

However, that success has also caused a problem for the food bank.

"The trends are going in the opposite directions," she said. "My output is going up and my intake is going down."

Donations to the pre-Thanksgiving food drive have been dropping about 1,000 pounds per year since 2010.

"Scouting for Food " last year collected 17,600 pounds of non-perishable food. This year’s goal is 20,000 pounds but the last time Scouting for Food hit that benchmark was 2010.

Trachte estimates the organization will help between 300 and 330 families this year.

"That might surprise many since Lititz is perceived to be an affluent area," she said. "I think the people in the Warwick School District will step up to the challenge when they see these trends. "

Actually the increased requests for help isn’t surprising considering the sharp rise in the number of students eligible for free and reduced school lunch program in Warwick School District.

Since the 2007-08 school year, that rate has jumped about 64 percent – which tied Ephrata School District for the highest percentage increase in Lancaster County.

"When you have about one in four students eligible for the free or reduced meals that should raise some eyebrows," Trachte said.

She estimates that the Lititz-Warwick Community Chest pantry this year will serve between 300 and 330 families mostly through two major food drives each year: the current Boy Scout drive and the donations collected from homes by postal workers on the second Saturday in May.

It typically delivers non-perishable boxes to homes but it also uses cash donations to buy perishable items – on a very limited basis – that are delivered directly from volunteers who shop at four local supermarkets – Weis, Giant, Stauffers of Kissel Hill, and Weiser’s.

She touched on the controversy stemming from cuts in the federal food stamp program and specifically "the national conundrum we’re in with finances."

"If you want smaller government than this is the kind of organization that fills in the gap," she said. "Actually, we’re the ideal solution no matter which side of the political aisle you come down on."

Trachte said the food bank’s mission statement is for "temporary assistance."

Because it doesn’t accept government funding and is not affiliated with a regional food bank, it is able to apply an honor system and is not regulated by government income guidelines.

"So if you lost your job five months into the year and you made too much money in those first five months to qualify for government assistance but now it’s October and your mortgage has you really in a bind, we can still help you because we don’t have to answer to (government regulations)," she said.

She explained that no matter the situation, there will be rich and poor who work the system. But "that there are many more in genuine need than those taking advantage."

"You accept it as fact and try to manage around it," Trachte said. "You want to find a way to walk the line between assisting, enabling and being taken advantage of."

Trachte has a simple goal to increase community awareness while increasing food donation to this weekend’s food drive collection by the Boy Scouts.

"Everything we have – whether it’s people, money or food – all come from this community in the Warwick School District and goes back to it."

Reminders:

Place filled donation bags out by 8 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 16 so the Boy Scouts can collect them.

Bags not collected can be dropped off at the Lititz Fulton Bank branches at Warwick Center or at Stauffers of Kissel Hill.

For more information, go to lwcommunitychest.org or call the LWCC Hot Line at 627-0770.

More FOOD BANK, page A6