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Tuesday, February 21, 2012 / 4:30 PM

Let My People Eat: Area Food Pantries Reeling from the Recession

Have you lost a job – or two – during this long recession? Surely, at least, you have family and/or friends who’ve been “downsized” over the last few years, with our ugly economy to blame for their troubles.

Ask anyone involved with the local food-pantry scene how the ubiquitously bad financial news has affected their biz, and they’ll tell you a story of wildly increasing numbers.

“Our pantries have seen a 30 to 40 percent increase in the people seeking services since the downturn in the economy began,” said Karen Klaus, Director of Development at Operation Food Search, a prominent food bank that distributes food to about 250 different local pantries, shelters, and soup kitchens.

Becky Reichardt, Director of Development for Midtown-based Food Outreach, says "the demand for our services has reached its highest level in our history, with the number of cancer clients alone growing by nearly 54% compared to cancer clients served in 2010. We provided a record 484,333 meals to 1,902 clients in 2011 and are on pace to provide more than 500,000 meals by the end of this year."

One local pantry, the Harvey Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry, has seen the number of assisted families double to about 5,000 in the last year alone.

That organization, under the umbrella of the Jewish Family & Children's Service, has outgrown its truly tiny digs, but just managed to purchase a pre-existing 24,000-square-foot building in Olivette, according to the St. Louis Jewish Light.

The HKJFP, in its new location, plans to open for the public in early July. And don’t think from its name that this food pantry is just for Jewish people – to quote a forgotten comedy gem, “You don’t have to be Jewish.” Being down on your luck happens to us all.

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