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Food pantries see surge in demand

• As many as 73 families a day use Newhall site

Posted: June 25, 2008 12:58 a.m.
Updated: August 26, 2008 5:03 a.m.
The Food Pantry in Newhall has seen a spike in the number of people needing food in recent weeks. The Food Pantry in Newhall has seen a spike in the number of people needing food in recent weeks.
The Food Pantry in Newhall has seen a spike in the number of people needing food in recent weeks.


Two local food pantries are seeing a big spike in demand as more Santa Clarita Valley families are feeling the pinch of a tight economy.

For the Santa Clarita Valley Food Pantry in downtown Newhall, demand is at an all-time high, while donations are unusually low.

"Our lobby is full and shelves aren't keeping up with the demand," said Belinda Crawford, executive director of the Food Pantry.

Crawford said she frequently sees a small group forming a line outside of the building each morning before the doors open at 9 a.m.

The first quarter of 2008 saw a 53 percent increase in the number of residents walking into the Food Pantry to get their groceries.

On Monday, the Food Pantry saw 48 families and has seen as many as 73 families a day, which the charity has never seen before in its 22-year-history.

The Hunger Defense Fund in Canyon Country has been serving 15 to 30 new families a week, averaging a total of 150 to 175 families on a weekly basis, a volunteer said.

"The need is great and it's going to keep going up," said Stephanie Fullerton, a volunteer at the Hunger Defense Fund.

Fullerton said she has seen a new population coming in for help.

"They're not the people that normally seek services," she said. "They might still have a house, but are not able to feed their families. They're not in total dire straits yet, but they're getting there."

High gas prices could be a big contributor, they said.

"Many of our families are single parent households," Crawford said. "Working moms are pulling money away from the food budget because they have to put gas in their car to go to work or they lose their job."

For both charities, the summer months are particularly rough.

Demand is usually up, while donations are down. Kids are out of school, which means that they can't get the low-cost or free meals provided by the schools.

Donations taper off in the summer because of the lack of school food drives and donors go on vacations and many get out of the routine of donating.

With this struggling economy, donations are even slimmer. The Food Pantry's big fundraiser in May garnered 25 percent less food than last year. The National Association of Letter Carriers collected food at three local post offices.

The annual fundraiser "is what basically keeps our doors open in the summer," Crawford said, adding that she usually sees donations increase every year. "This is the first time I've seen a decrease."


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