For most area residents, the holidays bring joy and the happiness of meals shared with family and friends. Yet for some families in the Woodward-Granger area, having enough to eat can be an overwhelming challenge.

But this is where the Granger Food Pantry can help on a short-term basis says Chuck Fuson, long-time head of the emergency food pantry at Emmanuel United Methodist Church, 1910 Locust St. in Granger. The food pantry, Fuson says, generally limits its service to residents of the Woodward-Granger School District. On occasion, if he is "overstocked" in a particular item, he may swap for needed goods from other emergency food banks such as those in Adel or Perry.

Recently, Fuson says, the Woodward Granger Elementary and Assumption schools completed their holiday classroom competition supplying nearly 1,900 items for the pantry. "That’s about where we’ve been the last few years," said Fuson. "The younger students usually win because they get their grandparents to donate."

The Granger Food Pantry isn’t an "alternative grocery" nor a substitute for food stamps, says Fuson., who adds that for some families the pantry can be the short-term solution they desperately need.

Since the financial crisis that began in 2008, Fuson says he’s seen some increase in the number of client families. "We used to serve two or three families, and Now we’ll serve four to six families a month," says Fuson, who adds that it often only takes a change or two in a client’s life to put them in need of assistance.

For example, Fuson says, a first-time client confided that both she and her husband had been "downsized" from their jobs about six weeks earlier. But between mortgage and car payments, there soon wasn’t enough money to buy food.

For new clients, the emotions can be nearly overwhelming. Recently, Fuson says, a man drove into the church parking lot and headed to the pantry but then retreated to his car and drove off. Later, he returned and told Fusion his story. He’d been laid off, had three teenagers boys to feed and "hadn’t a slice of bread in the house."

To begin using the pantry, clients should come to the church office and complete basic paperwork stored on a index card. Clients then select the items they need. Clients over 12 receive a full grocery sack per visit. Children between four and 12 are allowed a half sack. Children under four, it’s presumed, can be fed from a parent’s plate. Cash vouchers for perishable items such as milk and bread are also available. Hygienic items such as soap and toothpaste are usually available.

Since the pantry is intended on as a short-term basis, pantry volunteers can help learn about and apply for food stamps.

The pantry welcomes donated food items as well as cash, Fuson says. For more information and hours of operation, contact the Emmanuel Methodist Church office at 515-999-2215.