Food pantry’s woes discussed at Natchez aldermen meeting

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 10, 2010

NATCHEZ — At the invitation of Alderman James “Ricky” Gray, Catholic Charities Director Martha Mitternight addressed Mayor Jake Middleton and the board of aldermen Tuesday concerning the cash-strapped Natchez Food Pantry.

Mitternight previously announced the pantry will close at the end of the month due to poor economic conditions. Catholic Charities, which operates the pantry, does not have the operating cash needed to sustain the pantry, she said.

Mitternight said Tuesday the food pantry feeds 422 families each month. The food provided is usually consumed within one week.

Families in need are screened according to guidelines set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the majority of the pantry’s consumers are the elderly who live on a fixed income.

Mitternight said elderly consumers often have to decide whether to spend their last dime on food or medication.

Currently, the pantry is operating at a $17,000 deficit. 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.

“In order to serve the people, it takes a lot of food and a lot of money,” Mitternight said. “Donations have slacked off tremendously because of the general economy these days.”

Mitternight said Walmart, which donated $10,000 to the pantry last year, decided not to donate this year.

Mitternight applauded area schools, churches, businesses and civic organizations for its in-kind donations of canned goods, and petitioned the board to contribute to the pantry using its discretionary funds.

“What I need is cash to operate the program,” Mitternight said.

“You judge a community by how you treat your poor people,” Gray said. “We need to encourage businesses and whoever to please donate to the food pantry. I know (money) is tight right now, but we need to do whatever we can to assist.”

Gray suggested Mitternight contact churches and schools to coordinate fundraisers for the pantry.

Mitternight said monetary donations can be mailed to the Catholic Charities office at 109 S. Union St. Donations are tax deductible.

In other business:

-The board unanimously approved to review 26 bids for general supplies ranging from water and sewer supplies to mosquito control products.

-The board unanimously voted to reappoint Francis Ransom to the Natchez Water Commission.

-The board unanimously voted to renew an interlocal agreement with the Adams County Emergency Communication Commission.

-The board unanimously voted to enter into a mutual aid pact with the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency.

-The board voted 4-3 to approve the budget docket presented by City Clerk Donnie Holloway. Gray, Alderwoman Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis and Alderman Dan Dillard voted against the approval. Both Gray and Arceneaux-Mathis voted “no” on each line item with the exception of payroll. Dillard argued the budget reports need more clarity.

Aldermen Bob Pollard, Ernest “Tony” Fields and Mark Fortenbery voted to approve the docket. Middleton broke the tie vote, voting in favor of the docket’s approval.