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Longtime Volunteer Overcomes Obstacles to Feed Local Hungry

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Released 28 January 2011

Virginia Hitson
Virginia Hitson, a 25-year volunteer at The Salvation Army on Sugarloaf Parkway in Lawrenceville, stocks newly received donations in the food pantry on Wednesday. Donations have been wiped out this week due to the harsh winter weather last week.

Photo Credit: Jonathan Phillips, The Gwinnett Daily Post

Longtime Volunteer Overcomes Obstacles to Feed Local Hungry

A recent survey of Salvation Army food programs across the country shows nearly all saw increased demand over the past year while donations to one of the top social service charities were flat or declined.

Virginia Hitson knows all too well about the growing demand for food in her community, as she has spent the last five years of her 20 years of volunteer service to The Salvation Army, preparing, sorting and managing the Lawrenceville Corps Community Center's Food Pantry- with food provided thanks to the support of generous donors like you.

"I come in a few days a week and check the food that has been donated and on the shelves to make sure nothing is expired and everything is sorted by type," says Hitson. "After I get the shelves stocked, I start to make the food baskets for the clients who come in to get help."

Hitson says over the last year, she's watched the requests for food increase so greatly that emptied shelves have made it difficult to prepare the food baskets with what she calls "square meals."

"I try to make sure there are at least three square meals for three days in each food basket," explains Hitson. "I make sure there is something for breakfast like cereal, or grits.  For lunch, there is tuna, or Macaroni and Cheese.  For dinner, I always pack beans and vegetables, canned meats, and boxed meals that don't need to be refrigerated."

After five years, Hitson says Peanut Butter and Jelly is what gets her most excited when she finds it in the pantry. "Peanut Butter and Jelly is great because it can be for breakfast, lunch and dinner. We get bread donated a few days a week and I love to give out the bread with the PB&J."

Hitson also loves when she gets treats such as cookies, candies, or hot-chocolate donated, "I call those ‘fillers'. It's not exactly part of a square meal, but it's a treat for the families with children who get the food."

Hitson also sets aside certain food items for special needs clients seeking help. "At least three or four times a week someone who is homeless will come in and I always have some of the pop-top canned foods for them. Sometimes we'll get clients with high-blood pressure or diabetes and we make sure we have food available for them as well."

In 2009, Georgia was one of only five states that exhibited statistically significant higher household food insecurity rates than the U.S. national average 2007-2009. (Food insecurity is defined as access to enough food for an active, healthy life.)  

An astonishing 97% of households classified as having low food security reported that an adult had cut the size of meals or skipped meals because there was not enough money for food and 27 percent reported that an adult did not eat for a whole day because there was not enough money for food (USDA, 2010 )
You can help your neighbors in need by making a monetary contribution, or by hosting an emergency food drive in your neighborhood or school. 

Click these links to make a donation, host a food drive, or for a listing of the types of food items needed.

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