The Washington Post

For a food bank, a bailout no one could criticize

View Photo Gallery: When the Prince William County pantry, which doles out food to about 4,000 people a month, ran out of supplies in October, the community rallied and raised thousands of dollars to restock the empty shelves.

Families in crisis count on food banks as a lifeline. So what’s the emergency backup when a food bank goes out of business?

The Prince William County food pantry, run by Action in Community Through Service, found out in October: It’s the public.

The pantry, which doles out food to about 4,000 people a month, ran out of food and supplies Oct. 17 — a spike in demand coupled with declining donations spelled disaster.

The community rallied and raised thousands of dollars to restock the empty shelves.

The food pantry didn’t used to take inventory. It does now. Rebekah McGee, who runs ACTS’s emergency programs, said that, in one sense, the business of running a food pantry is fairly simple. The bread guy provides bread, the restockers shelve, the veggie guy bundles.

Even so, the pantry’s two full-time paid staffers juggle much more: an ebb and flow of volunteers, food pickups, donations and families that count on them to make it through.

Here’s a by-the-numbers look at the time and goods donated to the pantry:

$7,000 given in 2010.

$108,000 October 2011.

1,700 lbs. of deer meat was donated on Nov. 15 by Hunters for the Hungry. The group gives 300 to 500 pounds a month.

2,500 lbs of produce is donated in a week by Master Gardener volunteers in Dale City, Va.

At the Prince Wiilliam Food Bank a family of four would receive 1-2 bags of produce which is bagged from this selection of vegetables Thursday, November 16, 2011 in Dumfries, VA. (Katherine Frey/THE WASHINGTON POST)

66 lbs. of groceries are expected to last a week for a family of four. In one bag: 2 boxes of macaroni and cheese, 1 jar pasta sauce, 2 cans chicken noodle soup, 1 can tuna, 1 can corn, 1 can kidney beans, 1 can diced tomatoes, 1 can tropical fruit, 1 can diced beets, 1 can cannellini beans

1,421 families fed in Operation Turkey, 2010

30,000 lbs. of food drummed up by Boy scouts in the Turkey Drive

34,000 lbs. of side dishes given in four days

1,600 families expected in 2011

128 volunteers

1,007 hours in October

69 hours, 5 minutes volunteered by Rene Garcia in October. “It makes me feel good ... that someone else can get food on their table. I’m going to do it until I can’s do it any longer.”

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