Food flying out the door at pantries that aid poor -
Published Sunday, February 2, 2014 at 12:30 am / Updated at 1:43 pm
Food flying out the door at pantries that aid poor

It's clear to those in charge of regional food banks and pantries that more people need their services.

Federal food stamp cuts last November are a factor, said Cindy Jandrain, coordinator of the St. Vincent de Paul pantry in Omaha. More than 1,600 clients visited in October and November, the highest number since record-keeping began in 1995.

“People were anticipating the cut,” Jandrain said. “Food's going out the door fast.”

The loss of long-term unemployment benefits at the end of last year also plays a part, said Lindsay Pingel, communications manager for the Food Bank of Iowa in Des Moines. More than 3,000 Iowans are feeling that pinch, she said.

Now, the U.S. farm bill that awaits Senate approval would trim an additional $800 million from the food stamp program, though it appears that Nebraska and Iowa would be spared at least initial cuts. The savings would come from changing a program that links heat and food aid in some states, and neither Nebraska nor Iowa participates in that program.


The number of Nebraska households eligible to receive aid from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps), August through December:

Dec.: 78,943
Nov.: 78,487
Oct.: 78,608
Sept.: 79,382
Aug.: 80,119

SNAP benefits were reduced at the beginning of November. A family of four, for example, now gets $36 less each month. The average monthly SNAP payment per Nebraska household, August through December:

Dec.: $258.50
Nov.: $260.91
Oct.: $279.45
Sept.: $277.44
Aug.: $277.49

Source: Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services

It could be several months before the U.S. Department of Agriculture sorts out how to implement food stamp cuts, said Kathie Osterman, a spokeswoman for the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.

Regardless of the causes, however, the president and CEO of Food Bank for the Heartland in Omaha thinks traffic there will continue to grow. For many people, including the jobless or underemployed, the recession hasn't ended.

“It's the new normal,” said Susan Ogborn. “We haven't found the ceiling for need.”

Food Bank for the Heartland, which provides goods to 325 nonprofit agencies, already has distributed nearly three times more food in the first half of the fiscal year that began in July than it did in all of 2009 and 2010, Ogborn said.

So far, supply has met need, though Ogborn said the food bank has had to place limits on products in high demand. The member agencies — pantries such as St. Vincent de Paul, homeless shelters such as the Open Door Mission and other social service groups — order goods they pick up at a warehouse near 105th and F Streets.

“We turn the warehouse totally over two times a month,” Ogborn said. “Every 20 to 25 days, it's empty, and we fill it back up.”

Most pantries, which give food directly to needy individuals and families, have guidelines about how often someone can get help and a set list of items they receive. At St. Vincent de Paul, people older than 60 can get food every 30 days, and those younger than 60 can get help every 60 days. But everybody who visits the pantry gets an emergency food package.

“Nobody leaves hungry,” Jandrain said.

Pantry and food bank representatives said they have ongoing food drives and fundraising campaigns so they can always be prepared for economic realities such as food stamp cuts and unemployment, as well as natural disasters or other events that might cause increased need.

The St. Vincent pantry, for instance, gets help from drives through area churches and organizations such as the Ancient Order of Hibernians, Jandrain said.

The Food Bank for the Heartland gets corporate food donations, including fresh produce, dairy products and meat, and collects canned goods in various drives throughout the year. The recent Shine the Light on Hunger campaign provided more than 1.5 million meals for hungry people in the community. A corporate drive, Strike Out Hunger, is set for College World Series time.

The Food Bank of Iowa is concentrating on getting the food to the people who need it. It serves 375 agencies in 55 Iowa counties.

“We're making more of an effort to deliver food instead of having agencies come here,” Pingel said.

One way they're doing that is through a mobile pantry, which sets up a farmers marketlike giveaway where people can get food in cities and towns across the state.

The Food Bank of Iowa distributed more than 9 million pounds of food in the past fiscal year, up from 8.5 million the year before.

Each person interviewed said contributions of canned goods are welcome and appreciated, but monetary donations allow them to fill in gaps and make sure they have what they need.

Above all, they said, it's important to stay the course.

“You need to have a plan, work the plan and be methodical and smart,” said Brian Barks, Food Bank for the Heartland's director of development and public relations.

Contact the writer: Betsie Freeman    |   402-444-1267

Betsie Freeman is a reporter covering social services, philanthropy and other topics.

Brothers looking for pot sentenced for violent home invasion
At Boys Town panel, experts stress it's never too early to educate children
Kelly: New $24M UNO center embodies spirit of newlywed crash victim
Gov. Heineman calls 2014 a 'very good year for Nebraska taxpayers'
Ex-Iowan behind landmark free speech case recounts story in Bellevue
Arrest made in teen's shooting death at Benson's Gallagher Park
Section of 50th Street to close for bridge demolition
Nikko Jenkins found guilty of 4 murders
Rather than doing $250K in repairs, owner who lives in lot behind 94-year-old house in Dundee razes it
Plans for new $16M YMCA in Council Bluffs at 'critical juncture'
Woodmen request would take nearly $40M in valuation from tax rolls
With fixed AC, Fort Calhoun's nuclear station ends brief shutdown
Windy day could make driving difficult on east-west roads
Richard Brown steps down as Charles Drew Health Center CEO
High school slam poets don't just recite verses, 'they leave their hearts beating on the stage'
OPD safety expo set for April 26
Database: How much did Medicare pay your doctor?
Crew working to disassemble International Nutrition plant
New public employee pay data: Douglas, Lancaster, Sarpy Counties, plus utilities
18-year-old arrested in stolen-car case
U.S. Senate candidate Bart McLeay trails his 3 GOP rivals in fundraising
86-year-old Holdrege man killed in weekend collision
New police gang intervention specialist knows firsthand about getting involved with wrong crowd
Finally. Spring expected to return. No, really: Warmer-than-average weather in forecast
Four, including Omahan, vie for police chief position in Council Bluffs
< >
Kelly: New $24M UNO center embodies spirit of newlywed crash victim
Jessica Lutton Bedient was killed by a drunken driver at age 26 in 2010. Thursday, the widowed husband and other family members will gather with others at the University of Nebraska at Omaha to dedicate a permanent memorial to Jessica.
Breaking Brad: How much would you pay for a corn dog?
The Arizona Diamondbacks have a new concession item: a $25 corn dog. For that kind of money, it should be stuffed with Bitcoin.
Breaking Brad: Pothole repair crew gets stuck in a pothole
In East Lansing, Mich., a pothole repair crew got stuck inside a pothole. How did this not happen in Omaha?
Breaking Brad: What do the moon, Colorado senators have in common?
How about that "blood red" moon Monday? It was as red as the eyes of a Colorado legislator.
Breaking Brad: Hey, Republicans, are you ready to be audited?
A quick list of audit red flags: 3) You fail to sign your return. 2) You fail to report income. 1) You are a registered Republican.
Deadline Deal thumbnail
Shoreline Golf Club
$40 for 2 Players, 18 Holes of Golf with Cart ($85 Value)
Buy Now
< >
Omaha World-Herald Contests
Enter for a chance to win great prizes.
OWH Store: Buy photos, books and articles
Buy photos, books and articles
Travel Snaps Photo
Going on Vacation? Take the Omaha World-Herald with you and you could the next Travel Snaps winner.
Click here to donate to Goodfellows
The 2011 Goodfellows fund drive provided holiday meals to nearly 5,000 families and their children, and raised more than $500,000 to help families in crisis year round.
Want to get World-Herald stories sent directly to your home or work computer? Sign up for's News Alerts and you will receive e-mails with the day's top stories.
Can't find what you need? Click here for site map »