Food pantries see jump in need for hot meals, free groceries

By Trang Pham-Bui - bio | email

OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) -  "Father in heaven, sustain our bodies with this food."

A prayer opened another busy lunch day at The Lord Is My Help soup kitchen in Ocean Springs. About 60 people show up every day to get a free meal. And 200 families come every month to get groceries from the food pantry.

"There's just such a need out there right now," said Barbara Ruddiman, Manager of The Lord Is My Help. "As the economy is getting worse and worse, I'm increasing in business."

Over the last three months, The Lord Is My Help has seen a 30 percent jump in the number of people in need. Many of the faces are new.

"Now, I'm getting a lot of working families that their hours are getting cut," said Ruddiman. "So they can't make ends meet anymore. We've gone way beyond just homeless. It's people that can't find work."

A few blocks away is the Samaritan Ministry of Jackson County. The food pantry went from serving 134 people a year ago, to over a thousand people last month. Some families never imagined they would have to turn to a charitable organization.

"People come in and say, 'Well, I had a job, but I got laid off,'" said Volunteer Coordinator Bonnie Furniss. "I had a lady this morning come in. She just lost her job. So now she was needing help from the food pantry."

Food pantry managers are worried that if the economic crisis continues, the demand for help will rise. And with wintry weather and the holidays around the corner, they expect to have even more mouths to feed.

Food pantries rely mainly on contributions from individuals and organizations to survive. Managers say with hard economic times, they hope people will continue to be generous with their food donations.