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Food banks, pantries brace for uptick in need during holidays - KTBS.com - Shreveport, LA News, Weather and Sports

Food banks, pantries brace for uptick in need during holidays

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Local food pantries brace for an uptick in need during the holiday season. Local food pantries brace for an uptick in need during the holiday season.
SHREVEPORT, La. -

Food banks nationwide are bracing for a double whammy - cuts to the food stamps program and an uptick in need during the holidays.

Locally, it's no different, because about 92,000 people in Northwest Louisiana live below the poverty level.

"The numbers are just increasing and there are several different reasons."

Susan Foster, Noel Neighborhood Ministries food pantry Director, says a perfect storm is brewing; a combination of economic conditions, a recent decrease in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, and the approaching holiday season.

48 million Americans are currently enrolled in the SNAP program and about 20-22% of the population in Louisiana receive these benefits.

"Our clients who come in were working full-time, they're working part-time now and that's a big cut in someone's budget," explains Foster, adding that the pantry gave out over 1,000 bags of food last month, the most ever for October.

Noel Neighborhood Ministries is one of 122 food pantries that receives much of its inventory from the Food Bank of Northwest Louisiana, which helps a 7 parish region.

The food bank says they make the most of donations made during the holidays, often stretching them year round.

"We depend on those donations during those months really to help us even through the summertime when people aren't thinking about food insecurity," says Director Martha Marak.

So Foster and her volunteers brace for what's ahead and depend once again on the community's history of generosity.

"We use everything here."

Studies show that kindergarten reading and math scores are lower for children in households with incomes below the federal poverty level.

That's why Noel Neighborhood Ministries also gives out books and magazines for their clients, and encourages reading.

The food pantry is a part of Noel Methodist Church located at 520 Herndon Street in Shreveport.

It also partners with the American Red Cross to assist fire victims who are often left with nothing after a disaster.

Fosters says Noel offers personal items, cleaning supplies, and everyday necessities that people need after a fire.

The pantry relies on donations, which can be dropped off at the Herndon Street location or mailed.

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