Food aid needs are rising in Brookings

David Michaud

David Michaud

Brookings is among the cities feeling the effects of the recession with more visitors to donation-based food suppliers, such as the Food Pantry and Harvest Table.

This year, 167 more families have visited the Food Pantry than at the same time last year, said Don Kasak, manager of the Food Pantry. In 2008, there were a total of 797 families that received food from the Food Pantry. As of September, 787 families have received aid.

“We have layoffs, husbands giving up their rights to their kids so they don’t have to pay for them, some have gone through nasty divorces,” said Kasak. “Crazy layoffs.”

Attendance at the Harvest Table has also risen. “We have more people than last year,” said Teri Johnson, senior pastor at Brookings First United Methodist Church, where the Harvest Table is held. “There are new families every week.”

There are many people who do not believe that Brookings could have such a large number of people who are in need of meals, said Johnson.

Many families and individuals who seek assistance from the Food Pantry are not homeless. They just need help to make ends meet.

“There are many misconceptions about the people who attend Harvest Table,” said Johnson. “Some of the misconceptions are that the people who eat here are lazy and are not looking for jobs. The people who eat here want to work.”

Some people who receive help from these food suppliers work two to three jobs. Employers are cutting many jobs, but even those who keep their jobs are not in the clear. Kasak said that those employed still lose many hours because companies do not want to keep them full-time and have to pay benefits.

“It doesn’t seem like there are many people who go hungry in Brookings. I always thought that it was kind of an upper-class town,” said Daniel Poor Bear, a junior physical education major. “I never noticed anyone who seemed homeless or starving.”

While some students do not notice how hunger affects Brookings, some groups at SDSU are doing their part to help fight hunger.

The event “Hobos vs. Hunger” which took place during Hobo Days produced “848 pieces of food” for the Food Pantry, said Kasak. There is also the Empty Bowls event occurring on Nov. 10 at 6 p.m. with “all the proceeds going to the Harvest Table,” said Catherine Malinich, service-learning consultant working with Empty Bowls.

Donations from area businesses help both the Food Pantry and Harvest Table. The Food Pantry receives help from area hunters who give processed meat. Hy-Vee contributes with bread to the Food Pantry.

The Harvest Table serves meals once a week at the Brookings First Methodist Church. The meals are served by volunteer groups of about 20-25 people who provide all the food as well.

The church welcomes all and there is no need to be a member of the congregation.

The Harvest Table also takes grocery and personal hygiene items that they disperse throughout to the needy. Individuals can donate as well by dropping off food at the Food Pantry building.

“I take anything,” said Kasak, “just come right in and give food.” The Food Pantry is located at 217 4th Street in Brookings; their phone number is (605) 692-5007.