Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013 | 4:40 p.m.
An inexplicable surge in the number of families seeking aid from the Salvation Army’s downtown food pantry has left the cupboards so bare the organization could be out of food within days.
The nonprofit sounded the alarm today, sending out a plea for nonperishable food and cash donations to bolster the supplies that help thousands of families put food on the table each month.
“It’s dire,” Salvation Army Southern Nevada spokeswoman Leslee Rogers said. “There’s nothing in there. I don’t remember ever seeing it like this.”
All that’s left at the warehouse, 1581 N. Main St., is a pallet of corn, a quarter pallet of instant noodles, 30 or so packages of rice, some green beans and a few boxes of cereal, Rogers said.
In recent years, the pantry has provided bags of food containing a balance of fruits, vegetables and meats to 100 to 130 families each day.
Participating families can only access the pantry once every two months and must provide proof of residency.
“They have a place to live, but it's on a subsistence kind of income,” Rogers said of the typical family. “If we can provide them a bag of food, that’s $100 that can go to next month’s rent.”
The number of families visiting the pantry began rising in April and continued through the summer.
At first, this wasn’t a concern, Rogers said, because the pantry normally sees a surge in activity during the summer when needy children aren’t being fed breakfast and lunch at school.
But even with students returning to the classroom last month, there hasn’t been a drop of in the number of families visiting the pantry — currently about 200 per day, Rogers said.
She estimated more than 75,000 pounds of food have been given out through the pantry in July and August alone.
The Salvation Army hasn’t found a clear explanation for the increase in need despite a nominally improving economy. Rogers hypothesized that although more people are returning for work, it’s often at a wage that doesn’t allow for them to cover all of a family’s bills.
“I think that those who are finally getting a job are getting jobs that pay much less,” she said. “Although they’re able to keep family together and pay rent somewhere, they need help to get everybody fed and to keep it going to the next month.”
The pantry is in need of all types of nonperishable foods, especially high-protein items such as peanut butter, canned chicken, tuna and other meats.
Pasta, beans, rice, canned vegetables and fruits, breakfast cereal, oatmeal, dry milk, juice, and baby food and formula are also needed, Rogers said.
Nonperishable food or cash donations can be made at the Salvation Army Family Services campus, 1581 N. Main St., or at the main administrative office, 2900 Palomino Lane. Donations with a credit card can also be made by calling 702-870-4430.