"We know there are people out there needing help," Jennifer Crowe of Simmons First National Bank and organizer of the Mammoth Spring, Ark., Food Pantry said.
The food pantry offers food to anyone who is in need. However, the pantry has had some difficulty attracting people to the pantry who need food.
With the national unemployment at 9.7 percent and Arkansas' unemployment at 6.3 percent, everyone is affected in some way by rising grocery prices and the unsteady economy.
"When we started this (the food pantry) it was a group effort," Crowe said. "Fulton County residents could go to the Oregon County food pantries, but (the county) had stopped that and we (the city and the Mammoth Spring Chamber of Commerce) thought, 'What are our people in Mammoth going to do?' This was when gas was really high. They couldn't possibly go to Salem or Hardy. So, we felt like there was a need. So, we started in December (2007), and we advertised some but you can see the numbers. There's just not very many families, and we know that there's more."
"That's what we struggle with," Crowe said. "We can't seem to get them all here." She said last month there were 21 families who came in, but the highest number of families they have received was 59, which was about 138 people, in December 2008.
"So, we're at less than half of our highest," Crowe said. "We're baffled, I guess, because we don't know why (people have stopped coming). What they get we feel like is worth their time to come and get. They always get a bag of food with about 10 things in it."
She said there is no known cause as to why some families have stopped coming to the food pantry. "We know there are more people out there who need food," Crowe said. "I think they just forget we're here."
She said people might forget the pantry is there because it is not on Main Street where people can see it and that, the pantry hasn't been around for long and people aren't used to the schedule. The food pantry is behind the Mammoth Spring Volunteer Fire Department.
Crow said those who receive food from the pantry have to have a Mammoth Spring address, but they do not have to live within city limits. Any Mammoth Spring address will do.
"We have income guidelines," Crowe said. The income guidelines go by family size and how much is made within a month, week or year. Income guidelines are based on 130 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. A family of five, for example, can make at or below $2,794 a month, $645 a week or $33,527 a year.
Along with the bag of food, people can also pick up items from the miscellaneous table. The number of items one can choose from on the table depends on the size of the family. Items on the miscellaneous table include ketchup, cereal, oatmeal, apple sauce, pudding and any other extra food items. People can also choose two items from the bath supply table. Crowe said they also get additional food from Arkansas Rice Depot.
"Some people donate expired food to us," Crowe said. She said they are not allowed to give expired food out, but it is laid on a table and people, with the knowledge that it is expired food, can choose whether or not they want it. "It's not really, really expired," Crowe said. "It's not anything too bad." If a food item is way beyond its expiration date, Crowe said the pantry throws it out.
"We get food from individuals and Rice Depot," Crowe said. She said Rice Depot donates rice, frozen chicken and canned vegetables.
Some local farmers also donate extra produce they have, too. "Last month, we had a local farmer come in and donate eggs," Crowe said.
The food pantry has also helped the community and residents in need during emergencies. "We do some emergency things, like if someone were to go to city hall and say, 'I really need a bag of food,' they'll call us and we'll meet them here and give them a bag of food," Crowe said.
"During the ice storm, we opened and gave some of the food that we had (to people). Of course, it was in the freezers and probably going to ruin. So, we opened it (the food pantry) up and if anybody needed it then we were glad to give it to them," Crowe said.
She also said the pantry would like to see more elderly individuals come into the food pantry because she knows they need whatever help they can get. "We have some individuals who cannot get out (of their homes) and we deliver to them," Crowe said. "We've done that (delivering food), and we're willing to do that."
Crow said there are about 20 families that never miss a distribution date but with others it's hit and miss. "I wish I knew the answer to that question (why numbers have gone down) because we'd try to accommodate," Crowe said.
The food pantry distribution is 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. Food pantry distribution dates are as follows: July 20, Aug. 17, Sept. 21 and Oct. 19. The time for the Nov. 21 and Dec. 19 distribution dates are from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.