Salvation Army of the Midlands says inflation is making it more difficult to serve those in need

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Published: Jul. 15, 2022 at 8:17 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The Salvation Army of the Midlands says that soaring inflation is affecting its ability to serve the most vulnerable in the community.

Through a partnership with Transitions homeless recovery center, the organization offers hot meals to those experiencing homelessness year-round, and operates a food pantry out of its office in Columbia, but high prices have made providing those services more difficult.

Melani Miller, the Director of Program Services for the Salvation Army of the Midlands, said there is a “crisis in terms of food security” in the Midlands for many families. This is a gap that the organization hopes to fill.

“I do think that right now a lot of families because of inflation, I do think a lot of families are having to make harder decisions about how much they can give, or whether or not they can give,” Miller said.

Not only do people have less excess cash to spend, there are also now more people seeking the services that the Salvation Army provides.

For example, Miller said the number of families who accessed its food pantry tripled from May to June.

In May, the Salvation Army assisted 50 families through its food pantry, which equated to 110 people.

During the month of June, the organization provided food for 75 families, which accounted for 337 people fed.

The food pantry is stocked with donations from the community.

Vonda Vandross, a case manager who works directly with their clients at the food pantry, said that with the cost of food, gas, rent and everything else increasing, the Salvation Army is having a hard time meeting increased demand.

“We’re in dire need of assistance with our food pantry at this moment, we’re very low,” she said.

In the last year, costs for its service to provide meals to those experiencing homelessness have gone up 20 percent, according to Miller.

The Salvation Army is responsible for oversight of the kitchen, food purchasing, food storage and food cleanup.

Food costs are shared with Transitions, but the program’s costs are supplemented by community donations.

Miller said that due to inflation and ongoing supply chain issues, it has also been difficult to obtain items that they need.

“For years and years and years, years and years, we bought this good quality little patty of meat, beef patty, little hamburger patty, and we could use that in a lot of different ways,” she said. “But with the supply chain issues, that type of patty was no longer available. And so in order for us to continue feeding, continue having food there for the homeless to eat, we had to look at many different types of products and often those products were higher.”

Both Miller and Vandross said they are hopeful that the generosity of Midlands residents will help them continue to provide food to those most in need.

“I do have faith in our community that as we express our needs and describe things that we need to really help others with basics like food that our community responds to that,” Miller said.

Vandross encouraged those who are able to give.

“I always believe that the more you give, God gives back to you,” she said.

The Salvation Army says that non-perishable goods are most needed at the pantry. These include items that contain meat or other protein, including canned stew, canned chili, soups and Vienna sausages.

Donations can be made at the Salvation Army of the Midlands office. That address is 3024 Farrow Road in Columbia.

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Through the partnership with Transitions, the Salvation Army serves on average 16,000 hot meals per month to those experiencing homelessness in the Columbia area.

According to the organization, monetary donations are most helpful for this program.

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