PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — The ongoing pandemic is causing a much higher demand for services at Peoria’s Neighborhood House.
Currently, Neighborhood House is 40 percent over budget as volunteers work to alleviate food insecurity in Central Illinois.
CEO and President Becky Rossman said food insecurity calls are up 60 percent to the United Way’s 211 helpline. She said they don’t have the capabilities to continue at this rate.
“Food insecurity has gone up exponentially,” said Rossman. “We’re seeing the rural social isolation is also playing the factor as well as the food insecurity of the inner city.”
40 percent of Neighborhood House’s food pantry users are first-time clients.
“We have 15 or 20 new people come in every week and they’re always asking for the basics, food, toilet paper, anything we can give them,” said volunteer Sandy Anton.
Since the start of the pandemic, services like Meals on Wheels have grown, trying to meet the increased need in the area.
“We’ve added 583 seniors just since March 21. We’re continuing to add 22 seniors every week,” said Rossman.
At the food pantry, boxes are now given out weekly rather than every other week.
“We’ve had a tremendous increase in demand. We used to serve 30-40 families, we’ve been serving upwards of 100 clients every week,” said Anton.
Rossman said the food pantry grew 850 percent and costs $40,000 a month to run, but she said the organization can’t continue like this.
“We’re looking at scaling back. So our recommendations to our board in a couple of weeks is going back and only spending 9,000 dollars a month and going back to that every other week,” said Rossman.
Rossman said annual fundraisers were canceled, adding to stresses on the budget.
“We can’t maintain this current level of growth. We don’t have the funding or the manpower,” said Rossman.
Rossman said donations and volunteers continue the organization’s efforts, but decreasing services and costs will keep the organization going in the long run.
Neighborhood House primarily serves the 61605 zip code, which is the second poorest area in the state. Starting Oct. 1, the food pantry will be reduced to twice a month.
Rossman said people can continue supporting Neighborhood House’s mission by volunteering or making a donation.
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