With decreasing state and federal aid and a growing demand, the Indiana County Community Action Program is simply trying to use what it has and rely on community donations to support those in need.
Lorna Vite, executive director of ICCAP, said Indiana County residents seemed to make do when gas prices were high in the summer, but food bank numbers jumped as cold weather hit.
``I think if someone is on a fixed income, this is one way they can free up a little bit of money to go into the fuel bill,'' Vite said. ``I think that as cold weather hit, people were looking for all ways to help their household.
ICCAP's 21 food pantries served 1,713 households in October, an increase from 1,380 in July. The agency also gave out significantly more emergency food bags - 393 - in October, a spike from 92 in August and 88 in September. Those who receive emergency food bags are allowed to do so only three times a year and are referred to the county food bank.
Vite said the agency helps approximately 3,200 people per year, a number she believes will increase in 2009.
``I feel like it will go up. Even if it doubled, we would have to work to supply each family with a bag of food. I feel we could handle that, but we have not been in that situation before,'' she said. ``It would be something we would have to work for.''
Based on U.S. Census data, Vite said there are 24,844 people in Indiana County who are eligible for ICCAP's food bank. To determine eligibility, ICCAP takes 150 percent of the federal poverty guidelines, which is an income amount set each year based on household size.
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