This holiday season local food pantries gave out record numbers of food boxes to area families. As the economy sputters on and temperatures plummet the need for emergency food and shelter continues to climb. But some help is on the way.
A busy holiday season is behind Rockford’s Hunger Connection, but demand for food services isn't dropping off.
"Demand has been very high. It appears with our first orders coming in for January, demand is still up,” explains Gene Maule of Hunger Connection.
Some help is on the way for local agencies. A $225,000 Federal Emergency Management Agency grant will benefit organizations that provide emergency food and shelter.
"This will help 7,000 people in our community who might have lost their homes or have gone hungry a week longer,” says Michelle Gorman of United Way.
Despite the rise in the number of stateline families seeking shelter and help from food pantries, this year's grant is actually a little less than last years.
"What we think it means is not that our community isn't in need but there are communities who are doing worse than our community,” Gorman adds.
Competition for the grant money is stiff and the requirements are stringent. In fact the Hunger Connection in Rockford has applied for the grant money several times in the past year and been denied because it isn't a direct service provider.
"We can turn that around and get a much greater buying power because we buy in a food bank cluster. There are 11 food banks in our cluster and when we buy food we buy 40,000 lbs at a time,” Maule says.
No matter what Winnebago County residents will be helped by the grant money and the Hunger Connection will keep trying to find a way to make the money go even farther.
Applications for the grant money must be submitted by Jan. 23 to the United Way in Rockford. The average grants are anywhere from $3,000 to $5,000.
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