Pantry set to close

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 27, 2010

NATCHEZ — The Natchez Food Pantry will close at the end of March due to poor economic conditions, Catholic Charities Director Martha Mitternight said Friday.

“We do not have the operating cash that we need to continue to operate the pantry,” Mitternight said. “We’re in a deficit right now.”

Mitternight said the pantry’s annual operating budget is $50,000, which comes from grants and community donations. The budget covers the salary of part-time director, Tommy Jackson, as well as labor and overhead costs.

Donations this year have slowed to a trickle, Mitternight said, leaving the pantry with a $17,000 deficit.

“The food pantry under our direction has served more than 400 families each month and we’re very concerned about what will happen to those 400 families and their food security since we can’t continue operation,” Mitternight said. “I would love to keep (the pantry) open now if I could get the cash support we need from the community.”

Jackson too worries for the families who benefit from the pantry each month.

“Sixty-five percent of our customers are over 60 years of age, and they live on their Social Security income,” Jackson said. “After rent and medicine (expenses), they don’t have anything left for food.”

Mitternight said the pantry will continue, in March, to collect monetary and food donations and purchase food from the Mississippi Food network at a reduced rate.

The pantry’s empty shelves were recently replenished as a result of the community-wide We CAN do it! food drive, sponsored by The Natchez Democrat. The drive collected more than 16,000 cans for local food pantries, including 7,800 for the Natchez pantry, but Jackson said that food is now gone.

“We gave everything out,” Jackson said. “I’m praying that either somebody will come in or somebody else wants to take over (the pantry),” Jackson said.

The United Way of the Greater Miss-Lou previously operated the pantry, which is located on North Shields Lane.