This week is National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, and among the programs helping to keep people nourished is the Chadron Extra Helpings pantry through the Northwest Community Action Partnership.
Samantha Bronson, the Services Navigator for Dawes and Box Butte Counties, explained that pantry availability is based on income based on household size. “People have to be less than a certain amount per household, and it’s a different number for the number of people in the house. She could not provide the exact amounts as they change throughout the year.
Aside from income, Bronson said checks are done to see what other assistance programs a person participates in. These include Medicaid and SNAP. Data from the whole family is used and documents such as pay stubs from the last 30 days and award letters from the Department of Health and Social Services are used to verify eligibility.
Receiving SNAP will not disqualify a person, she added, because often SNAP does not provide enough food aid. “It just helps us see that they have been verified by other groups. “
Those eligible for the pantry can use it once a month, and large families get more food. For example, Bronson said, a family of three or less could get eight pounds of meat for the month. Large families can gain between 10 and 12 pounds. Meats typically include ground beef and chicken, if available.
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There are two different food sources for the pantry. The first goes through the USDA and happens no matter what. These are commonly referred to as “products” and include items like powdered milk, raisins, flour, and evaporated milk.
The pantry also receives a fixed amount for shopping, while other food comes from donations. While these are regularly singular food items, the Pantry has also seen thematic donations such as “Birthday Party Packs” donated by local Girl Scouts. The packs provide the items needed to make a birthday cake.
Shoppers in the pantry have free choice, although shelf labels have set limits on items. Bronson noted that what is provided should be enough to at least start the meals.
Food delivery is also available for those who cannot make it to the pantry. Bronson explained that calls are being made to those who need delivery, to let them know what is available and to make their choices. “That way they always have a free choice. We try to give people the best possible choice, but there isn’t a lot that we can get. “
In addition to the fixed pantry, Northwest Community Action also has three mobile pantries each year, two in Chadron and one in Crawford. There is no eligibility requirement for these mobile pantries, and vehicle queues are common when they occur.
There are also emergency food bags, Bronson said, designed for people who may be victims of domestic violence or who suddenly find themselves homeless.
Bronson estimated that there are 100 to 150 people and families in Dawes County who use the pantry each month, and they are entering their busy part of the year with the holiday season.
The Pantry has regular deliveries through the USDA, and those who wish to donate to the program can bring their item, or financial donation, to the Pantry at 127 West Second Street.
Other food aid programs in Chadron include the Shepherd’s Pantry at Immanuel Lutheran, 747 Ann Street, the Chadron State College Pantry, and the Closer to Home program at Masonic Hall, 365 Main Street.