Food pantry in need of toilet paper, staples

    COUNTY -- With an expected spike for need at the beginning of June, donations of food and personal hygiene items are still very much needed at the West Central food pantry in dowtown Harlan.
    West Central Community Action Outreach Director Dena Matthews said needed items include food and toiletries (toilet paper, paper towels, shampoo, dish soap, laundry soap, body soap, and deodorant).
    Because the office remains closed to the public, West Central is providing curbside pickup for food. They are asking donors to bring donations to the back door and to please call ahead first so they can unlock the door. The office is located at 1017 7th Street in Harlan.
    West Central has also relaxed food pantry guidelines during this time, so there is currently no limit on how often a family may receive food from the pantry. There are no income guidelines to qualify for this program. This service is available to all households who reside in Shelby County.
    Beginning June 15, the outreach office and food pantry will be open for in-person transactions by appointment only. Health screening questions will be asked prior to visitors entering the building and face masks are not required but recommended. Curbside food pantry service will continue for those who prefer not to come in the building.

Food staple items needed at food pantry
    The most needed items in addition to toilet paper include all the staples: fruits, vegetables, pasta, boxed meals, canned chicken and tuna, mac and cheese, peanut butter, cereal and other breakfast items, meat, and more. They are also asking for donations of 100 percent cotton fabric as there are volunteers who have graciously offered to make masks to provide to clients.
    Matthews said there was a 50 percent increase in food utilization from March to April due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She was expecting to see another spike the end of May into the first part of June. There has been an approximate 25 percent decrease in food donations of food from the community. Matthews said they have been able to continue purchasing items needed with the increase in monetary donations.
    “It was difficult to keep up with the demands when the pandemic first started, as we received an increase in food requests and it became more difficult for us to purchase large quantities as our local grocery vendors struggled keeping their own shelves stocked. Although we have seen a decrease in donations of food, we have received several generous monetary donations and grants to help us keep our shelves stocked so we can continue providing assistance to food insecure families in the community,” said Matthews.
 
Please wait to donate household items
    The emergency clothing room will remain closed until further notice. West Central will not be accepting household items until they receive further guidance so that they can ensure the safety of their staff, clients and community.
    “We kindly ask for folks to hold on to these donations a while longer if they can, until we receive further guidance on handling household donations. We appreciate everyone’s patience and understanding as we have had to make adjustments on how we are providing services during this time. Our outreach office will be opening by appointment only starting June 15. The emergency clothing room will remain closed until further notice,” said Matthews.
    The outreach office will begin accepting donations of clothing beginning July 1 with a maximum of one bag or box of donations at a time due to limited space.
    “We are encouraging donors to follow guidelines from the World Health Organization (WHO) for washing clothing in hot water (between 60-90 degrees Celsius) with laundry detergent or soap before donating, as we do not have the facilities to wash clothing at the outreach office,” said Matthews.
    Summer office hours began June 1 and run through August 10. The outreach office will be closed on Mondays. Best times to drop off donations will be Tuesdays through Fridays from 8 a.m.-1 p.m. If these days/times don’t work, alternate arrangements can be made.
    Matthews is very appreciative of the community support. She oversees the outreach offices in all 10 counties served by WCCA in Southwest Iowa (Cass, Crawford, Fremont, Harrison, Mills, Monona, Montgomery, Page, Pottawattamie, and Shelby).    
    “We appreciate all the support we have received from our community partners and donors during this time. Any donations or contributions we receive will allow us to continue providing services to families during these unprecedented times,” said Matthews.
    The WCCA outreach office is also still accepting applications for Iowa’s Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) at this time. The deadline to apply has been extended to June 30.  Matthews said they can accept applications via fax, e-mail or mail.
    For more information on any of WCCA’s programs please call Matthews at (712) 755-5602 or email her at dmatthews@westcca.org.

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