Greece, N.Y. - The line began shortly after noon. Soon it was the length of 2 football fields. Even before the food pantry opened, a second truckload of staples was on order.
“This is my first time,” said Madeleine Gonzalez who lives in Greece. “Everyone is struggling now.”
Madeleine works part time, her husband full time. Their struggle to get by compounds every month. “I have more bills than I can pay. We’re trying to make a living but we need a little bit of help right now.”
The economy may be rebounding, but a record number of households in Monroe County are falling even further behind. “We know that the need is really high,” said Matthew Knaub of Foodlink.
He said Foodlink is serving double the number of families it did in 2008, the year the recession hit. The need in the suburbs is so great that the organization is now creating mobile pantries, to bring the food to the people.
“Going to a pantry is a little bit scary the first time. If we can bring it to them in a neighborhood they’re familiar with – it helps,” said Knaub.
Many of the people standing in this line have jobs that just don’t pay enough anymore. Some two-income families have lost the income of one parent due to layoffs.
“It’s hard out here,” said Mike Stasio who lives in Greece. “We have some places that are helping, but the help is not enough.”
“Those are your neighbors, those are your friends that right now are struggling,” said Foodlink’s Knaub.
Last year the organization served 197,000 meals to people in Greece and nearly 900,000 meals to people throughout Monroe County. Most of the meals go to people who do not qualify for public assistance. Food pantries are their only safety net.
“I’m grateful for whatever I can get because every little bit helps,” said Madeleine Gonzalez.
She walked away with three bags of donations that she said will allow her to stretch the food budget enough to have a birthday celebration for her daughter, who is turning six.
“It’s hard to explain to a child why she can’t have cake for her birthday,” she said.