ST. THOMAS, Pa. — Many take it for granted that the refrigerator will be stocked with plenty of food for dinner and there will be milk ready to pour over the family’s morning cereal.
But for thousands of Franklin County, Pa., residents, the cupboards are bare.
For American Legion Rider member Joe Cocco of Chambersburg, Pa., that is unacceptable.
So, he gathered American Legion Riders from across the county and organized a 75-mile Food Pantry Ride to benefit South Central Community Action Programs’ six county food pantries, each of which was visited by the riders.
In the 1990s and after Sept. 11, 2001, Cocco was a world away fighting for America’s freedom, but on Saturday he led the charge on the war against hunger from St. Thomas United Methodist Church in St. Thomas.
In January 2011, SCCAP supplied food to 921 families, or 2,000 people. One year later, that number jumped to 1,160 families and 3,200 people, according to SCCAP figures.
With SCCAP’s fiscal year running from July 1 to the end of June, Cocco said supplies are critically low.
“The food banks get a lot of support over Thanksgiving and Christmas, but it seems like over the summer, interest drops off,” he said. “This is really a critical time because they are running on fumes when it comes to money. So, we’re hoping this is a boost.”
The ride was open to the public.
While Becky Chilcote, of Mercersburg, Pa., is not a veteran, she wanted to help her community.
She rode with her husband, Doug, and brother-in-law, Dave, both of Mercersburg, and their friend Neil Pellerin of Chambersburg.
“There are a lot of children and adults who go to bed hungry at night and get up with nothing to eat for breakfast, and that’s a shame for our society,” Becky Chilcote said.
Money raised for SCCAP food pantries came from the registration fee.
SCAAP Program Coordinator Heather Clark said about 13 percent of Franklin County is in poverty.
“It’s the hardest time of the year because all those kids who qualify for free or reduced lunches in school are not getting them (over the summer), so that’s an extra burden on the parents,” Clark said. “So right now is one of the toughest times.”
While many donate food and money over Thanksgiving and Christmas, Clark said summer is a crucial time to give donations.
“We were completely out (of food) — about a month ago,” said Sue Gipe, volunteer coordinator for the St. Thomas Food Pantry.
The need has increased over the past year because of the economy and lack of jobs, Gipe said.
“We have people who have gone to college and they can’t get anything (employment),” Gipe said.
Clark doesn’t want the community to stereotype those who have to turn to food pantries to survive.
“It’s people who are down on their luck. It’s not one type of people or age group. We have clients from 17 to 70,” Clark said.
Gipe wants the community to understand food stamps don’t pay for paper products like toilet paper or paper towels, and other paper products.
“We have had people come in with a baby in a plastic bag as a diaper because they had no diapers,” she said.
For more information or to make a donation, contact SCCAP at 717-263-5060.