County sees increase in families needing food

At the Breadbasket

Guests at The Breadbasket in Flandreau have jumped a bit in numbers this year, a trend that means the food pantry shelves are getting low on some items.

The first two weeks of this month, for example, The Breadbasket helped 51 households with a week’s supply of food, compared with 79 families in the entire month of June last year, said Deb Williamson, manager. January through June of 2017, the number of households who received food was 388 compared with 413 so far this year.

Williamson, who has volunteered for six years with the organization and has been manager since October, said she isn’t sure why the numbers are higher, but there are a few more single-parent families and grandparents who are taking care of grandchildren who have asked for help. Summer means a higher need too because children are home from school.

“Our numbers are up, and food is going out the door,” she said. “We have a lot of people who are regulars, but we have new families who are coming in, too.”

In addition, Feeding South Dakota has offered two mobile food pantries in Flandreau this year and have served dozens of people.

When people visit The Breadbasket, which has served the county 22 years, they receive several sacks of groceries that are intended to provide help for about a week. The food offered includes canned vegetables and fruit, canned meat, condiments, baking supplies, cereal, peanut butter, pasta or rice convenience dishes, a pound of hamburger, one other selection of available meat, a dozen eggs from Dakota Layers, bread, a pound of margarine and a voucher for milk. Larger families are allowed to take a few more items than single people or small families. Guests also are allowed some paper products, laundry or dish detergent if it is available and some personal hygiene items, for example.

While the food pantry has helped 413 families this year, that translates into 1,503 people, including 658 children, records show. For all of 2017, the organization helped 2,689 people, including 1,184 children.

Families are allowed to visit The Breadbasket only once a month. This month, the agency is giving away a meal in a bag that includes ingredients to make a meatloaf dinner. The agency does something special once every three months, Williamson said.

In the spring, they did a bucket with spring cleaning items such as vinegar, baking soda and sponges, along with suggestions on how to use them.

“They loved it. One gentleman was in tears because he had never gotten something like that before,” she said.

Helping people in need can be emotional and rewarding, Williamson said.

“Sometimes it’s tough here when you’ve got a grandma sitting here, and the family is broken and she has grandkids to take care of,” she said. “You can’t judge. You’re not in the judgment seat here.”

She and the dozen volunteers who take turns helping distribute food try to make the experience good for those who stop by in need. “Sometimes it’s hard. Sometimes they’re upset,” she said. “We just try and have a good time with them.”

The Breadbasket is governed by a board made up of members from various local churches that also encourage donations. In addition, Thrivent helps with matching funds for some of the special baskets such as the meatloaf meal in a bag.

Williamson is hoping that along with some extra donations, more volunteers will be called to help because some of the people that give of their time are aging out. Volunteers need to be able to be on their feet, bend and lift about 10 pounds, she said.

“We really do need more volunteers.”

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