An ongoing shutdown of the federal government has prompted a local food pantry to expand its hours in order to help more people.
Jennifer Wild, president of the board for Manna Pantry, said the emergency food closet began opening for an extra hour on Saturdays to help families who are in need.
Manna Pantry, 123 S. Sixth St., opened from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. on Saturday specifically to help families impacted by the federal government shutdown, which has now lasted for a month.
Those being helped include families who receive supplemental nutritional assistance program benefits (SNAP).
The Department of Human Services decided to send out February’s food stamp benefits earlier than normal to ensure families received their funds.
Wild said she expects to see more people needing help over the next few weeks.
“We have seen an increase. I’m not sure it is due to the shutdown, but we are anticipating that increase for the next month,” she said.
Monday, hundreds of federal workers participated in a food giveaway event at the state fairgrounds. That event was sponsored by the Regional Food Bank of Central Oklahoma.
Wild said Manna Pantry also is trying to assist by offering more hours.
She said each family will still receive the same amount of food as they do normally.
“If someone needs food, they can come in and receive what we have to offer,” she said. “We would love to help them.”
To help meet the need, the Manna Pantry has increased its orders from the Regional Food Bank.
“We are trying to anticipate the need and be prepared. We want to have our shelves stocked,” Wild said.
She said the pantry has had recent increases in food donations, but also has seen an increase in need.
Manna Pantry provided food for more than 1,100 people in December and averaged 850 people per month throughout 2017.
Because of the increased need, Manna Pantry continues to look for a new location.
Its building is too small, said Wild.
“We need about 3,000 square feet,” Wild said. “We seriously are in need for a larger space.”
However, the pantry would like to remain in the same area because many of its clients have transportation issues.
“We’re praying about it. There have been people who have reached out to us,” she said.