BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – The Fort Madison Food Pantry has changed plans this year and will not be having it’s annual Christmas basket giveaway at the Riverview Park Pavilion.
The event, which was typically held in December and would provide boxes of food for those who qualify for assistance during the holidays, was replaced this year with gift bags that are being handed out as part of regular visits to the food pantry.
Food Pantry Director Lin Cramer said the pantry board decided to try something different this year and hopefully put a little money back to help with the leaner months of January and February when donations aren’t as healthy as they are during the holidays.
“We’ve done it a little different this year. The event at the pavilion was quite expensive. It cost us several thousands of dollars, so we’re going to use that money and go for another month in a half with regular groceries,” Cramer said. “And the pavilion event was only one day and if a client couldn’t make it that day they were screwed.”
Local businesses got together a donated 300 cloth bags that are being filled with food for a holiday meal including a pork loin, items for a green bean casserole, fresh fruit, applesauce, cake mix or brownie mix and some sundries.
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Board vice president Shirley Gable went to an auction at the Kingsley Inn and bid on a lot of the personal items the hotel had in stock. When Gable told the owners it was for the Food Pantry, the decided to donate all the items.
Cramer said because of the impact of the Farm Bail out, the Iowa Food Bank has been able to stock about 10 more items this year than they have in the past including pork loins and roast chickens.
“When I talked to people there they said they would be getting seven to ten more items per month than they would normally be getting. That’s where the pork loins came from that we’re able to put in these holiday bags this year,” she said.
“But Shirley did some very judicious shopping and worked with Hy-Vee and Fareway and area churches as well as the Food Bank so we have enough to make this a special meal for those that need it, in addition to their regular shopping here.”
Those who qualify can pick up the holiday bags when they make their regular trip to the pantry.
“So that’s what we’ve been doing and it seems to have worked out well and the cost was much reduced. All total for the 300 bags when you take out the donations we spent about $86 and now we can use the rest of that money for regular food supplies after the holidays and still provide a good holiday meal.”
She said traffic has been fairly steady at the pantry so far during the holiday season, but she said next week things will probably get a little crazy.
North Lee County residents must qualify as a client are eligible for the holiday bags, but Cramer said the pantry is taking new clients. She said the pantry is also very well stocked for the holidays thanks to the generosity of area communities and businesses.
“”A lot of people have done various donations throughout the month and we’ve had some good fundraising going as well. We’re in pretty good shape, but come January and February it will probably even out,” Cramer said.