Mark Koeble, director of the Whitehall Community Food Pantry, set a record last month he hopes he never breaks.
“We provided food to 71 families this month (January). That’s the most I’ve done since I started doing this and I’ve been here 10 years. Every week I’m seeing more and more new faces.”
Last Wednesday alone, 23 families came through the doors of the pantry looking for food.
That demand left the pantry’s reserves barer that Old Mother Hubbard’s cupboard and has Koeble concerned.
“I don’t have much back-up. I can’t keep going if the food isn’t coming in,” he said.
The pantry, which has seen demand steadily increase for the last several years, has been forced on several occasions to restrict the number of times clients can pick up food, limiting them to once every five weeks. And with demand continuing to outpace donations, Koeble says needy individuals will now be able to access the pantry once every six weeks.
“I’ve had to make another change because of the demand,” Koeble said.
Leading up to and during the holiday season, a number of organizations within the community held events and fundraisers to benefit the pantry but donations have begun to fall off with the holidays long since passed.
Koeble said he consistently receives donations from the same individuals and organizations each time but it becomes difficult to ask the same donors over and over.
There are organizations, such as the Northeast Regional Food Bank, that provide food to local pantries, but Koeble said there’s a lot of paperwork that needs to be completed to receive that food. And transporting the food can be a problem.
“You need a truck to go pick it up and we don’t have one,” he said.
He fears that if donations don’t pick up, he may deplete his funding and be forced to close for a week or two this summer.
“I’m really trying to get the community to step up,” Koeble said.
He said the pantry needs peanut butter, cereal, macaroni and cheese, pasta sauce, soups and any other non-perishable food items. Cash donations to purchase food are always appreciated as well.
If anyone would like to donate or is interested in helping the food pantry, they can contact Koeble at 499-2039.