MESA’s food pantry is showing an increased need for services.

Executive director Eleanor Mower said the food pantry has seen an increasing number of customers over the past year. Mower has been serving as director of the local non-profit since January 2018 and during the past 12 months, the food pantry has gone from serving 320 families each month to 350 families monthly.

Typically, the food pantry sees an increased need for services during the holiday season.

“We often see increased demand for services during this time of year,” said Mower. “Budgets often get stretched this time of the year. Increased costs of heat and electric along with expenses from the holidays can stress families.”

Although other local food banks have reported their increased numbers are due at least in part to the 35-day government shutdown, Mower is uncertain the shutdown had any impact on MESA.

“I don’t believe MESA had any additional clients from the shutdown,” said Mower. “Other local food banks have seen increased traffic from furloughed workers and some groups have distributed food or provided lunches to groups of government employees.”

During the recent government shutdown, the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank packed and distributed emergency food boxes to TSA workers at the Charlottesville Airport.

Mower said that the food pantry tries to offer healthy options and strives to keep low sugar and low sodium non-perishables in stock. The pantry also receives donations of fresh fruit and produce from local farmers, local grocery stores Food Lion and Trader Joe’s and Sheetz.

The food pantry also provides personal hygiene products. Deodorant, toilet paper, toothbrushes and toothpaste, feminine hygiene products and diapers are all products that are not available for purchase with food stamps.

“We are always seeking donations of either non-perishables, personal hygiene products or cash,” said Mower. “We are always looking for volunteers too, people to help stock the pantry or help in the thrift shop.”

The food pantry is open Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. Residents of Madison County who are not already MESA clients can come to the food pantry during these hours to register for assistance and check eligibility. Donations are accepted anytime MESA is open.

MESA has provided emergency assistance to needy Madison County residents since 1982. The non-profit organization provides assistance in one or all of three areas-financial, food and clothing or housing. Financial assistance is provided on a case-by-case basis and often consists of help with utility bills and/or rent. Food is provided through MESA’s food pantry and clothing is provided through the MESA thrift store. The organization also runs Barbara’s House, a temporary housing situation for up to five families.

All of MESA’s programs are supported by private donations and grant money and are staffed by volunteers.

For more information, to contribute or volunteer, contact MESA at (540) 948-4427 or visit www.mesamadisonva.org.

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