The area’s largest food shelf has seen a 21 percent increase in business the first five months of the year.
The Catholic Charities Food Shelf served 6,074 households through May. It served 5,025 through the first five months of 2007.
Catholic Charities has surpassed the number of households served the previous year each month this year.
“It’s staying high. We continue to see at least 200 more households a month during the same time,” said Kathryn Stolpman, manager of emergency services for Catholic Charities.
The numbers at Catholic Charities are similar to those at other small food shelves in the region.
Demand at the food shelf that serves people in the Clear Lake and Clearwater area was up the first four months of the year and fell some in May, director Pam Bender said.
“April was surprisingly the busiest month,” Bender said.
It is typically a slow month, she said.
The Clear Lake and Clearwater food shelf, which is in the Lions Community Building, served 78 households in April after serving 39 in 2007.
Food shelf managers say the uncertain economy and rising cost of food and fuel are driving need.
“I’m sure it has to do with people getting hours cut or laid off work. The other thing is the price of groceries,” Bender said.
Catholic Charities had distributed 477,396 pounds of food through May, about 33 percent more than in same period in 2007.
Last year, through May, the most food Catholic Charities had distributed in a month was 76,000 pounds. This year, the 82,000 pounds given out in February is the least handed out in a month. The most was January’s 105,649 pounds.
Donations to the food shelf are keeping up, Stolpman said.
She still urges people to donate money because she can get four times as much food from her sources than donors could get with the same amount of money at the grocery store.
She is concerned that demand will outpace supply if the need continues to grow. The largest food drive in the area brings in 15,000 pounds, less than one-sixth of the monthly demand, she said.
She suggested people plant an extra row of carrots and tomatoes in their gardens.
“You just need to be supporting a food shelf any way you can,” Stolpman said.