Area food pantries pull peanut products

2009-02-10T00:00:00Z Area food pantries pull peanut productsSUSAN ERLER
February 10, 2009 12:00 am  • 

Tossing food in the trash wasn't easy for staff at the Hilltop Village Food Pantry -- especially at a time when the number of hungry mouths to feed is on the rise.

"I had to pitch it all, and there's no replacement," pantry director Roseanna Gray said regarding a national recall of certain peanut products.

Close to six cases of crackers and snacks at the facility had to be tossed as part of the recall following a salmonella outbreak that has sickened hundreds of people nationwide and may have contributed to eight deaths.

Meeting demand has been tough enough for the pantry, where each week more and more families arrive to get food in a deteriorating economy.

"A lot of it is people who've lost their jobs or single mothers working as waitresses and not making enough money to put food on the table," Gray said.

Demand for the pantry's free food has increased just as donations have declined, Gray said.

"It's bad enough as it is," Gray said. "To have to throw things away just breaks your heart."

Food banks across Indiana are clearing their shelves of recalled products amid a surge in demand for pantry food.

In Indianapolis, Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana is planning to destroy 31,000 peanut-butter-and-jelly snack crackers that used to be a key part of the lunches it provided for children.

The Hobart Food Pantry began pulling peanut products in late January when the recall was announced, vice president Mary Adams said.

"We went on-line and got pages and pages" off the federal recall list, Adams said. "I don't know how many pounds. It's been a sizable amount."

The pantry serving mostly Hobart residents has seen demand for food nearly double in recent months.

"Our numbers have gone up each week," Adams said. Between 100 and 120 families have been visiting each week, compared to between 65 and 70 families a week at this time last year, Adams said.

Peanut products stopped showing up among food items donated to the pantry as news of the recall spread, Adams said.

The Food Bank of Northwest Indiana, which last year distributed 2.5 million pounds of food to partner food pantries and soup kitchens, typically doesn't stock many peanut products, food sourcing volunteer Coordinator Chanda Dixon said.

Food bank items include mostly USDA commodities and canned goods, Dixon said.

"Nothing had to be tossed out in mass quantities," Dixon said. "But we have a recall list, and we know if we get anything not to distribute it."

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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