While Hurricane Dorian took the spotlight earlier this month when it comes to charitable donations to victims, Statesboro’s local food bank is feeling the crunch.
Between food stamp renewal delays and increased attention to hurricane victims’ needs, the Statesboro Food Bank has bare shelves and heightened challenges in supplying the community’s food needs, said Jodi Brannon, food bank director.
Usually, springtime food drives such as the United States Postal Service’s “Stamp Out Hunger” provide enough food to keep the pantry stocked until Thanksgiving. But recently, the demand has grown while the supply has dwindled, she said.
More families are reaching out to the Statesboro Food Bank because of problems with getting food stamps. Consumers are telling her that the local Department of Family and Children Services is behind in food stamp renewals, and that means empty shelves at home, she said.
The Statesboro Herald has left several messages with the local DFCS office seeking comment on the reported delays, but the calls have not been returned. A call to Walter Jones with the Georgia Department of Human Services provided minimal information, but a promise of a follow-up call never materialized. Subsequent calls have not been returned.
Jones said “staff turnover, new hires, training (and related) problems and challenges” are possible reasons the Bulloch County DFCS office is behind on food stamp renewals.
Brannon said consumers “are just told they (DFCS) are ‘behind.’” But that means it is sometimes several weeks with no food, and that is when families hit the food banks hard, she said.
“We give families a seven-day supply of food,” she said. “On the eighth day, they come back and get another seven-day supply. But they can only come back four times.”
When the month is over and they still don’t have their food stamp renewal processed, “they go hungry.”
Usually, families don’t have to ask for help for that long, she said. Sometimes they may need a week of help in between food stamps, but the recent delays have put a strain on supply.
Consumer Art Franklin expressed frustration with the delays.
As a disabled citizen who has lived in Bulloch County for over 12 years, he has been a food stamp recipient for 10 years, he said. There has always been a wait when services are renewed, “about 30 days,” and the renewals have to be done every six months, he said. But with the extended delays, he is forced to visit the food bank more often.
He said he feels DFCS staffing is an issue.
“It is always a long line, even just to hand in papers,” he said.
With another local food pantry temporarily closed, and with a major focus on donating to hurricane relief, the Statesboro Food Bank has been struggling to keep up with needs, Brannon said.
They pick up perishable food daily from area grocery stores, and when there is enough money, “we get food from Second Harvest," she said. Still, the need for nonperishable foods is desperate.
Brannon asked that the community consider donating, or even organizing food drives, to replenish the shelves. She will pick up larger collections, and any food or monetary donations may be made directly to the Statesboro Food Bank at 400 Donnie Simmons Way (the cafeteria of the old Julia P. Bryant elementary school).
Canned meats, vegetables and fruits are needed, as well as grits, oatmeal and other hot cereals. Dry cereal, crackers, flour, cornmeal, pasta, evaporated milk, dried fruits, nuts and other items like mashed potato flakes and soups are requested as well, she said.
Monetary donations may be sent to the Statesboro Food Bank Inc., 400 Donnie Simmons Way, Statesboro, GA 30458.
For more information, contact Brannon at (912) 489-3663.
Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.