By Libby Cluett
New Haven Helping Hands is preparing for what many call a serious food shortage this season.
“There is a tremendous food storage,” said New Haven Ministries Executive Director Jim Rhodes. “With the economy the way it is, we’re seeing a drastic increase in the number of families that qualify for our services.”
New Haven Helping Hands, the only USDA certified provider in the county, helps provide groceries for 1,200 people per month throughout Palo Pinto County and Rhodes is concerned about their stock and availability to replenish through area food banks.
“We are not going to make it through the season without having more canned goods,” he said.
They are in dire need of non-perishable canned foods like canned meat, canned vegetables and canned fruit.
Rhodes said they distribute nearly 2,000 to 3,000 pounds of food per week from the Mineral Wells location as well as through the mobile food bank, which travels to Gordon, Mingus and Strawn once a month and to Graford and Possum Kingdom on the fourth Saturday of the month. On the second Tuesday of each month, New Haven delivers groceries to homebound residents in Mineral Wells.
Located at 115 S.W. 3rd St. in Mineral Wells, New Haven Helping Hands is open for distribution three days a week – Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. They are there to accept, sort and prepare food bags for distribution every day except Sunday, during the same hours.
As of Tuesday, several area businesses have offered to help by providing space for food-collection canisters. Retailers helping include Wal-Mart, Metro and Blockbuster Video. Additionally several individuals and groups are trying to help, like St. Marks Lutheran Church, Clark Gardens and Operation Give.
Blockbuster Video is not only collecting food, store manager Rachel Schultz said they offer an incentive – bring in five canned food items and receive free DVD rental – through the end of the month.
“We’ve had [the New Haven canister] for a couple of weeks now and it’s been kind of slow,” she said, adding that the Weatherford Blockbuster Video store is also collecting for their local food bank.
Clark Gardens is also helping by collecting food and funds for New Haven Helping Hands during the holidays, including several upcoming events.
Rhodes stressed that the people they serve are truly needy and apply for assistance every six months.
“Ninety-eight percent of those who receive food have an income, but they cannot make it on the income they have,” he said, adding that 54 percent are seniors on a fixed income.
New Haven’s donations typically make up a small percentage of the food they actually distribute.
“Ninety-nine percent of the food we distribute, we purchase, and our suppliers are extremely short,” Rhodes said. “I’ve even driven to Oklahoma City to Feed the Children International to collect items. But it costs $300 to drive a diesel truck to and back. At the Tarrant Area Food Bank we purchase food for 14 cents per pound and they are short.”
“We’ve been here over 22 years and this is the worst I’ve seen it,” he added.
New Haven Helping Hands picks up canisters when they are full and would love to see 5,000 pounds of canned food for the holidays. The holiday season is not the only time of concern. Rhodes emphasized that there is a shortage in the summer children are not eating free lunches at school.
But for now, Rhodes said he would like citizens to contribute and to see businesses put canisters out. He said he has donation barrels and canisters available.
How You Can Help
Donations of non-perishable canned foods – canned meat, canned vegetables, canned fruit – with labels attached and within date of expiration, are requested. Look for donation barrels at Wal-Mart, Metro and Blockbuster Video.
Food donations are also accepted at New Haven Helping Hands at 115 S.W. 3rd St. in Mineral Wells, Monday through Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. For information, call (940) 452-1784.