GLOVERSVILLE - When families begin to gather for the holiday season, local food pantries get a rush of people coming in either to donate food, or to get morsels for their dinner table.
Mark Quandt, executive director of the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern?New York in Latham, said the number of people who receive help during the holiday season most likely goes up because utility bills rise and gifts for children put more pressure on families.
However, he said, the pantries and food bank receive more donations at this time of year, creating a balance.
Volunteer Dick Solar of Johnstown places items on the shelf Tuesday at the Johnstown Council of Churches Food Pantry, at the St. John’s Episcopal Church in Johnstown.
The Leader-Herald/Bill Trojan
Volunteer Vicki Solar of Johnstown places canned items into a bag at the church.
The Leader-Herald/Bill Trojan
Volunteer Abigail Hurst, left, works with Salvation Army Lt. Jennifer Anderson to bag food items Tuesday at the Salvation Army food pantry in Gloversville.
The Leader-Herald/Bill Trojan
"In our society, in general, we hate the thought of a family going without a Thanksgiving dinner or without a dinner at Christmas, so a lot of the food pantries provide special help during that time," Quandt said. "There is no question the amount of assistance provided during the holiday season goes up and so does the demand, but in the end everything usually works out."
He said the holiday spirit of individual donations and contributions from outside agencies will increase the food supply by 25 percent at the food bank in the month of December.
The core of items at the bank comes from donations from the food industry, which will donate items that are still good to eat but cannot be sold.
That happens when certain items are overproduced, or the packaging is damaged, or the code date is too close for it to go on the shelf, Quandt said.
Since it does not provide food to individual families directly, many food pantries in the area rely on the food bank to sell grocery items in bulk at significant discounts. In some cases, it distributes quantities of food for free through a federal U.S. Department of Agriculture program.
At several local food pantries, organizers report the number of patrons - and number of people donating food - increases up to 30 percent during the holidays.
The food pantry for families in the Gloversville Enlarged School District at Park Terrace Elementary School uses the food bank regularly and sees about 30 families each week during its Wednesday hours, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Park Terrace Principal Stephen Pavone said the pantry just recently took in a truckload of food from the Boy Scout Troop at Boulevard Elementary School and has taken food provided by the Jewish Community Center Temple.
"We are giving to families at Thanksgiving," Pavone said. "We have about 11 families we are adopting this year, where we are going to go out and buy full Thanksgiving meals for them. There will be a lot of food going out to a lot of people this year."
Pavone said the school does this on top of the food pantry because there are so many needy families within the school. Park Terrace has collected money from different organizations and private individuals that wished to remain anonymous to make adopting these families possible, Pavone said.
He said the school also will help 26 families during Christmas this year by supplying clothing and toys for the children.
Catholic Charities of Fulton and Montgomery Counties runs a food pantry at its Amsterdam location.
John Nasso, the agency's executive director, said the pantry will put together food baskets for about 200 families this year for Christmas and Thanksgiving.
He said on a regular basis the pantry will serve about 400 people a month, but that number slightly increases during the holiday season.
Despite the increase during the season, the food continues to pour in from philanthropic organizations and individuals, Nasso said. Donations go a long way, he said, because every dollar donated to the pantry will equate to about $8 of food it can purchase at the Food Bank.
"In November and December we receive a lot of donations, but what we really need during this time of year is volunteers because when we have a lot of people coming in during the day it becomes pretty hectic," Nasso said.
The Salvation Army food pantry on Spring Street in Gloversville has been very busy supplying families for the holiday as well, Lt. Jennifer Anderson said.
She said the food pantry will put together around 220 Christmas baskets full of food for the holiday and feed about 80 families a month through the pantry.
Anderson said the Euphrates Cheese factory and the Gloversville Cafeteria Association have been helping them out by doing food drives to support the food pantry this holiday.
"The biggest thing we are seeing as the weather and season changes is the demand [for] warm clothes," Anderson said. "People are walking around with holes in their shoes, which really isn't going to be a good situation for them when the snow falls soon."
Tom and Kathy Mickel are the co-coordinators of the Johnstown Council of Churches pantry at St. John's Episcopal Church.
Kathy Mickel said they also see a steady increase in people visiting during the holiday season.
With so many families and individuals visiting the pantry, obviously more food is needed. Luckily, Kathy Mickel said, local residents and organizations are very generous. However, she said, donations were a little lower this year, probably due to the additional drives for the victims downstate from Hurricane Sandy.
She said the pantry will feed about 200 people in the course of a month and has spent between $1,200 and $1,400 each month at the food bank to keep its shelves stocked at all times.
"If it wasn't for all the people in the churches and throughout the community we wouldn't be able to do this for so many people," Mickel said. "Because of the community we are able to keep up with demand."
Levi Pascher covers Gloversville news. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org