10/15/2013 9:55:00 AM Williams Food Bank scrambles to meet demand Local residents feel the pinch as shutdown continues, Williams Food Bank sees surge in clients looking for a meal
Alaina Karlsberger helps Williams Food Bank Director Guy Mikkelsen unload a van of food last week. The federal shutdown combined with an increased need for help around the holidays has kept Mikkelsen busy trying to keep his shelves stocked. Ryan Williams/WGCN
A Williams Food Bank volunteer restocks unusually bare shelves last week. Ryan Williams/WGCN
With many people out of work because of the government shutdown, the Williams Food Bank is experiencing an increased strain on its already depleted fall resources.
At the Food Bank's weekly distribution last Friday, 51 percent of the clients said the shutdown had directly affected their need for assistance, said Guy Mikkelsen, who runs the Food Bank. Additionally, the Food Bank has seen about 10 new families each week for the past few weeks, which is about 15 to 18 percent of the total clientele.
"That may be people that are still working but are seeing less tips as a waitress or getting less hours, and then of course all of the people laid off," Mikkelsen said. "There's a lot of people who are just getting by check to check even when they are working. So they may be clients already of the Food Bank, but they really need us now more than ever."
The Food Bank is usually running low on supplies before the holidays because the food the bank collected from spring food drives has run out, Mikkelsen said.
"Those supplies are really down just as a matter of course, but the shutdown has really exacerbated that," he said.
Last week the additional clients had "zapped" Mikkelsen's food supply, leaving his shelves bare and his 20-foot walk-in fridge empty.
"It's a week to week, month to month struggle to keep enough food on the shelves for everybody that needs it," Mikkelsen said. "We've been having to just give it out as fast as we can get it in."
However, donations from three Safeway stores and two Bashas' stores provided the Food Bank with enough food to distribute to clients last Friday. Mikkelsen was also expecting some extra food beyond his normal delivery from St. Mary's Food Bank Alliance on Monday.
Mikkelsen usually distributes food to about 50-60 families each week, with each family receiving about 30 items. The Food Bank usually goes from distributing 250-300 boxes in an average month to distributing 400 boxes in November because of Thanksgiving.
However, the government shutdown is putting an added burden on families before the holidays, Mikkelsen said.
"It's not the holiday pressure yet really. 'How do I come up with Christmas, how are we going to make it through Thanksgiving?' That's pressure for people who can't afford it already," Mikkelsen said. "So I guess it is really pressure early, that, 'Hey by the way, you also aren't going to get paid in October like you thought you were.'"
Fortunately, the Food Bank is starting its holiday food drive this week. People can drop off food at Safeway, the Dollar General, Red Lake Texaco, the Shell station on Highway 64, FooteWork Auto License and Title, and at the Food Bank, 200 S. Ninth St.
The Food Bank is in need of canned and dried goods, especially ones with meat, diapers, baby formula, pet food, and toiletries. The Food Bank also accepts monetary donations to buy the food it needs.
"Helping others actually is the best thing you can do for yourself," Mikkelsen said. "It's good for everybody. From a practical sense and a compassionate sense in our society we need to do that for each other."
More information about the Food Bank is available from Mikkelsen at (928) 607-6421.