Inside the food pantry at the Salvation Army this past Friday, Capt. Jon-Erik Berkhoudt showed what’s left on their shelves before the next shipment of food comes in next Monday.
Some jars of applesauce and cans of vegetables among several bare spots.
And with a higher than ever demand for food pantry services, he and his wife, Lt. Jessica Berkhoudt, hope the community will help with donations this holiday season.
“We’re struggling to keep up with the high demand of people in need,” she said.
The Berkhoudts said the nonprofit organization receives a once-monthly shipment of food from the Food Bank of Central New York through a partnership. Other than this shipment, they rely on donations to keep their pantry full to help individuals throughout all of Herkimer County.
The Herkimer County Department of Social Services listed 4,975 individuals on Food Stamps in October, up by more than 344 individuals from October 2010. County Commissioner of Social Services Timothy Seymour said the numbers “speak for themselves.”
“It’s tied to the economy,” he said.
Jessica Berkhoudt said there are many reasons why people seek out the help of their food panty including those who lost their job or people who don’t want to take “advantage of the social services system.”
Besides the increase in demand, Jessica Berkhoudt said the dwindling supply is also tied in with a change in how the food pantry operates which now requires the pantry to provide nine meals to each person within a household instead of three meals for three days.
The Salvation Army in Herkimer most recently served 240 individuals — including 60 children — through their food pantry, up from 204 individuals from the month before. They have even kept their food pantry open later on Mondays so they can continue to help everyone in need.
Their supply, however, has been depleted by the increase of demand and the change in operation.
“We had to close for two weeks last month because our pantry was empty,” said Jon-Erik Berkhoudt.
And with the holidays coming up, the Berkhoudts expect that number to increase even more.
The annual Red Kettle campaign is aiming to raise $30,000 this season, with only a portion of which would help out the pantry. Kettles can be found at Wal-Mart, Kmart and Herb Philipson’s in Herkimer and also Hummel’s and Big M in Little Falls. Jessica Berkhoudt noted students at Barringer Road Elementary School also annually collect for the Salvation Army during their annual food drive.
The Berkhoudts said there are plenty of ways people can help. They can contact them by visiting the Salvation Army office in Herkimer, 431 N. Prospect St., or by calling 866-1240.