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'We are the poor feeding the poor'

Mar 10, 2013 - By Alejandra Silva, Staff Writer

Ecksteins make local food bank their new life's work

More than 35,000 pounds of food was distributed in 2012 by the Riverton Community Food Bank. CEO of the food bank, Lloyd Eckstein, reported the numbers to the Riverton City Council. He said the food bank raised a total of $7,164 to purchase food items.

Eckstein said more than 1,000 people -- children ages 0-17, adults ages 18-59 and seniors ages 62 and older -- were given fruit, vegetables, canned and boxed food, noodles, flour, rice, jarred food, soft drinks, juices and clothing.

Recipients numbered 873 adults last year. Eckstein said so far this year the bank has topped the 2,000-pound mark of food distributed, and applicants continue to increase.

Shelves running low

Most of the food has been gathered from food drives, but with over 100 new applicants their shelves are running low.

"Just a few months ago they were filled," Lloyd's wife, Nancy, said as she pointed at the shelves.

Recently the Riverton Community Food Bank was certified by the regional Food Bank of the Rockies. With assistance of U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi, the food bank now is registered non-profit organization.

A recently donated computer has facilitated the process of saving people's information and tracking their visits.

Regulations

Several types of identification and proof of address are required to obtain food.

Nancy Eckstein said that although it may be tedious for families and individuals, the protocol is necessary because many times people try to get more items than allowed each month.

There is no limit per visit on pounds of food to take home, but visits are limited to twice a month in order to ensure there is enough left for others.

They weigh the food because they're required to under guidelines set by the Food Bank of the Rockies.

On average, Nancy said, more than 25 pounds of food is given per person. Most applicants are foster parents, homeless people, or low-age families.

More than $3,000 came out of the Ecksteins' own money last year to keep the shelves filled and to cover miscellaneous expenses.

Struggling but always hopeful, the Ecksteins described the operation as a "low-budget food bank" with most of the other non-food items, such as the shelves, donated as well.

"We are the poor feeding the poor," Nancy said. "I think it makes a difference when people come through this door and we know exactly how it feels."

Information, too

Food isn't the only form of assistance. They said they feel joy when informing people of other valuable resources in the community that they might qualify for but had no idea existed.

"We try to give them more than just food," Nancy said. "I just enjoy telling people there are other resources out here for you," she said.

Nancy said she gives everyone a list of local agencies that offer other types of help, and she added that the city's public transportation is a big resource that most people don't know about.

Inside the food bank sheets are posted with information on qualifications for Social Security benefits and other financial assistance, which Nancy said many times comes to a surprise to people who think they won't qualify.

Reusable totes given out to visitors carry the slogan "Support your local food banks."

'An OK choice'

Lloyd and Nancy Eckstein say they try to send the message that all food banks in communities need support in any way possible to keep feeding those in need. After paying the bills, a person may realize there isn't enough money to buy food.

"Visiting the food bank is an OK choice," said Nancy. "There's no shame in coming."

They said they are grateful for many who, after receiving help later come back and donate.

The refrigerators and shelves sit close to each other, and the Ecksteins said they hope to move to a slightly bigger space next door.

A board hanging on the wall shows a list of several local businesses that donate to the food bank.

Money donated is spent locally.

"We give them an option of choosing what they'd like," Nancy said.

Donations always welcome

Serving the hungry for more than 20 years, Lloyd said they have always tried their best to even help the person whose car breaks down and can't make it to the food bank.

For the purpose of picking up and delivering food, Lloyd said they would welcome the donation of a van.

The Ecksteins monetary accept donations through their Atlantic City Federal Credit Union account, and at their location at 20 Gardens North Drive.

They also accept clothing and are in particular need of children's clothing.

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