New Times: What is the current situation?
Hansen: We are a part of the association of food banks called Feeding America, and we receive food through them that has been donated from national corporations that are food processors. We aren’t receiving the same support on a national level as in the past. Low-cost food is difficult to get because nationally it is being diverted to profit-making opportunities, for example salvage stores. Local donations were actually very good last year. But the amount of the need is so much greater than what we can get locally, it goes out so fast.
New Times: What is salvage food?
Hansen: Food that doesn’t meet the retail standards to be sold in grocery stores but is perfectly healthy. Now that that food is being purchased by companies that sell it to the public for a profit, we basically are receiving less salvage food then we used to. So now we rely locally on donations and rescuing food locally more than we used to and are relying more on fresh fruits and vegetables.
New Times: What is the need in the county?
Hansen: The need in the county is up 25 percent. Some of the larger food pantries are experiencing increases. The fastest growing segment is people who have never been in a food line before. It is a new phenomenon for a lot of people.
New Times: Why do you think this is?
Hansen: It is because they have lost their job or insurance. Basically it is the economy, people are losing benefits that they used to have.
New Times: With the tough times are people giving less?
Hansen: Food and money donations were up tremendously over the holidays. We were really grateful that the community helped us meet the need. We just hope that that continues throughout the year.
New Times: What would a typical family receive?
Hansen: They will receive 30 to 45 pounds of food that includes grain and fruit and vegetables. A good mixture of healthy food.
New Times: Who is receiving aid?
Hansen: 38 percent are children under 18 and 12 percent are senior citizens. The majority are working families. The myth that these are people that don’t want to work for a living is not true. They are just people who cant make ends meat, and this economy makes it even harder.
New Times: What can someone do to help?
Hansen: Monetary donations at this time are better than food. Although food donations are always welcome we can purchase more food with someone’s dollar than they can. For every dollar donated we can provide seven and a half meals, so for $10 we can provide 75 meals.
We also welcome volunteers to help us with our food drives, distributions, and at the warehouse. Some people prefer to give money and others prefer to help with the work; we welcome both. More information can be found at www.slofoodbank.org.