Salem pantry gets plenty of business

SALEM — Nearly 25 percent of the population in the 44460 area code visited the Salem Community Pantry at least once last year to get food, according to 2018 pantry stats.

That’s just one of the many facts featured in the report that will be presented during the pantry’s annual meeting of the Board of Directors and volunteers at 5 p.m. Tuesday at the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce building. The statistics were compiled by former longtime director Cliff Votaw.

The report said 3,431 people were served at least once last year, representing 24.5 percent of the 44460 zip code based on 14,000 people living in the zip code. That’s 1,091 families. Of the total number of people, 431 were 60 years old and older, 1,838 fell between the ages of 18 and 59 years of age and 1,162 were children under the age of 18. The grand total also includes 82 Hispanic families, a number which rose in 2018.

The total number of people served at least once and even the number of people served multiple times last year reflected a decrease from the previous year and actually the lowest number served in eight years. The total people served based on multiple visits was 19,135. The totals from 2017 were 3,897 (one time) and 25,008 (multiple times). The total number of families also went down, from 1,230 to 1,091 (one time) and 7,466 to 5,919 (multiple times).

The total weight of pantry items, total pantry purchases and total pantry expenses also dropped last year while the total per visit cost per family, with overhead costs figured in, actually increased to $8.61 from $8.24 the previous year. The weight decreased from 316 tons to 242 tons. Total purchases decreased from $35,942 to $27,852. Total pantry expenses, including utilities, gasoline, vehicle maintenance and office expenses along with the food, decreased from $61,512 to $51,875. The overhead costs included the purchase of two new freezers, but no personnel since the pantry is run by volunteers.

The pantry hours went down, too, with one less distribution per week, going from three distributions per week to two distributions per week, but as one volunteer pointed out, families are still limited to just two visits per month. The volunteer, who wished to remain anonymous, said many factors could be affecting the numbers. Some people who used the pantry have left the area and some may be doing better economically.

Regardless, she said the bottom line is this: “We still are feeding a lot of people in Salem. We still have a hunger problem in the area.”

Other notable statistics from the report included the fact that the average weight of food distributed per family per visit is 82 pounds. For an individual, that’s 25.2 pounds.

So where did the 483,551 pounds of food come from that the pantry distributed? The short answer is everywhere, with a little under half donated from area stores, businesses, organizations and schools. The long version is this (by pounds): 247,866 purchased from Second Harvest Food Bank; 12,250 free from Second Harvest; 148,390 from Walmart; 6,600 from post office food drive; 3,600 from Columbiana County Dairy Boosters; 5,000 from Sparkle Market; 6,263 from Marc’s; 17,605 from Giant Eagle; 14,292 from Aldi’s; 3,500 from Salem schools food drives; 1,300 from MAC Trailer; 2,350 from churches; 600 from boy scouts/girl scouts; 435 from Salem Rotary; 650 from Salem Junior Mothers Club; 250 from the Kent State garden; 9,500 from Simply the Deals (wholesale); 1,850 from individuals (food, miscellaneous, gardens); and 1,250 from miscellaneous drop-offs.

Food purchased from Second Harvest costs way less than what someone would pay for the same food in the store, so donations of money are needed in order to purchase food there, along with covering the expenses associated with operating the food pantry, which is again, operated solely by unpaid volunteers.

To donate, checks can be written to the Salem Community Pantry and mailed to P.O. Box 222, Salem, Ohio 44460.

Volunteers are always needed, too, and can show up during a distribution to get a feel for what it’s like and what needs done.

The distribution schedule is 9 to 11:45 a.m. Monday and 4 to 6:45 p.m. Thursday. The pantry is located at the corner of Third and Vine at 794 E. Third St. in Salem and can be reached at 330-332-5166.