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Central Arkansas Salvation Army pantry empty as prices rise

The Salvation Army is now struggling to keep their shelves stocked.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Helping people is already a difficult job – ask Matthew DeSalvo, and he can tell you first hand.

"Not since I've been here, and I've been here since October of 2020," DeSalvo, Director of Social Services for the Central Arkansas chapter of the Salvation Army, said. "This is the worst I've seen it."

And so can the people who rely on them for assistance. DeSalvo said they've seen more people seeking help.

"Everybody hurting right now, and I completely recognize that, but the biggest strain is on people who are already behind as is," DeSalvo said.

For an organization meant to help, it's hard when they're going through struggles of their own.

"To having a completely full pantry to having nothing," he said. "Because we double and tripled the number of people who are coming for food service."

Pantry shelves at the Salvation Army building on Markham Street are mostly bare. Part of the reason – inflation.

With prices on almost everything much higher, it's forcing more people to turn to pantries for help.

"The dollars just not going as far right now in the supermarket as it was this time a year ago," Steve Goode, executive director for the Arkansas Grocers and Retail Merchants Association, said. 

Goode said high prices may be pricing out those who would be looking to help.

"Ramen noodles are up about a nickel to a dime a package," Goode said. "So you take a 24 count pack of ramen noodles that a year ago may have been $4.80, well today that same pack of Ramen noodles may be $7.20."

DeSalvo said it's tough, but they'll still keep helping.

"Never want to give them something that's compromised, that's why I say it really hurts us to have to do that, but I don't want to turn anyone away," he said.

So if you can help, they need it.

The Salvation Army is looking for non-perishable items to help fill shelves. That includes boxed meal kits such as Hamburger Helper, peanut butter and jelly, canned foods like vegetables and fruit, and easily transportable foods like cereal and pasta.

DeSalvo said he gets it may be tough and hard to help – but there's still plenty of people who need it.

"We'll never have to worry about this thing being empty again, but we just need to find those people who are willing to support us and willing to support the people that we serve," he said. "Cause that's what it's about. It's not about me, it's not about our staff, it's about the people that we serve."

Anyone interested in helping, can donate food or other items at the Salvation Army Central Command on Markham Street in Little Rock. 

Here is a full list of what they need:

  • Hamburger Helper
  • Canned Meat
  • Peanut Butter and Jelly
  • Pop Top Soups or Chef Boyardee
  • Canned Fruits
  • Dry Pasta and Rice
  • Pasta Sauce 
  • Frozen Pizza
  • Canned Nuts
  • Cereal

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