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Pasco Salvation Army finding cupboard bare

With only a few loaves of bread and a scant amount of dry staple goods on its shelves, the West Pasco Salvation Army is almost out of food to give away. If the army does not get substantial donations immediately, organizers say they will be out of food in a week and will have to refer people seeking help to other agencies.

The problem resulted largely from a new policy of the Boy Scouts, which changed the time of year it would donate food to the Salvation Army, said Nancy Lewis, the army's social director and accountant.

"There's a new person in charge who said (the Boy Scouts) need to donate the food in November instead of February, so we have to wait until November before we can get any food," Lewis said.

Besides the Boy Scouts, a local condominium association and area schools also make large donations in the fall. But none of that does anything to feed the eight to 10 families who walk into the Salvation Army each day needing food.

"We're scraping together the last bits of what's in our cabinets, but it's at the point where we don't know what we'll do," Lewis said. "We have some bread products but as far as staples like canned food or tuna fish, we have nothing."

Sherry Holland, the army's secretary, said Publix donates whole, unsliced loaves of bread daily, so the Salvation Army can offer that along with what remains of its spaghetti, dried beans and green beans.

"Usually we have enough food all the time," Holland said. "This is just unusual for us."

While the Salvation Army caters to a lot of single people during the winter, it has been helping mostly families lately; as many as 10 families with three to five people seek aid daily, Lewis said.

"Single people are not the ones requesting the help as much as the families with children that are waiting to get food stamps or who have food stamps that didn't last, or they just lost jobs and had to use their money to pay a mortgage," she said.

But those people soon will face even harder times without public support, she said.

"Another week, we'll be totally out," Lewis said. "That's if we really try hard to stretch it."

The Salvation Army, which relies on contributions, does not get food from the recently opened Food Depot in Land O'Lakes because there is a small charge for supplies.

"We try to get everything donated," Lewis said. "We have to keep costs down."