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Watseka Area Food Pantry volunteers (left to right) Gretchen Elliott, Lori Yelenick, Chuck Peabody and Pastor Darla Holden help unload a food delivery from Eastern Illinois Food Bank.

In the first six months of 2022 there have been 46 percent more requests for food assistance at the Watseka Area Food Pantry than there were during the same period of time in 2021, according to information from the pantry staff. This increase in requests for food has generated a need for more volunteers to help during the pantry’s operating hours of 9-11:30 a.m. on weekday mornings. Volunteers help by answering the phone, calling clients to take food orders, filling the orders, and stocking the shelves. Clients then pick up their orders by “curbside delivery.”

Volunteers are also needed to unload, sort, date, and stock monthly food deliveries. Watseka Area Food Pantry receives a delivery from Eastern Illinois Foodbank (EIF) in Urbana on the first Tuesday of each month at 8 am. The July 5 delivery of 3,793 pounds of food and drinks on five pallets were unloaded by 15 volunteers. Staple food items such as canned meats, canned fruits and vegetables, flour, sugar, cereal, soup, peanut butter, coffee, snacks, and personal care items are purchased from EIF. The pantry also takes a trailer to the Midwest Food Bank in Bloomington on the Friday following the first Monday of each month. Unloading begins at 11 am. In addition to these monthly deliveries, the Pantry purchases perishables such as milk, eggs, bread, and cheese at local stores. The costs of these items have risen by 36 percent since Jan. 1, 2022.

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