By SCOTT PESZNECKER
How many meals could you squeeze from $25,000?
The Calaveras County Human Resources Council is about to find out.
The private, non-profit human services organization has received a $25,000 grant from Catholic Healthcare West through Mark Twain St. Joseph's Hospital.
The grant will help fund the organization's Emergency Mobile Food Pantry, based at HRC's Calaveras County Food Bank in San Andreas.
In four areas of the county Copperopolis, Arnold, Rail Road Flat and West Point the Mobile Food Pantry distributes meals and information about nutrition and county food stamp programs.
Between 450 and 500 families use the mobile pantry, roughly a 200-family increase over last year's numbers, said Beth Hartline, HRC development director.
"We're seeing a huge increase in need, which is why we got the grant," Hartline said. "We were able to document what's happening in the county."
HRC supports six major programs: Community Services Programs, which oversees the food bank; Calaveras Women's Crisis Center; Child and Parent Services; Calaveras Head Start preschool; Child Care Resources; and Mother Lode Women, Infants and Children, which includes nutrition education and other services.
Hartline said the grant might be just enough for the food pantry to help the 200 extra families, but with the need for help rising, Hartline won't bet on it, she said.
"People are losing jobs; people are feeling more insecure about their circumstances," she said. "When people are stressed, they pay rent first and then their utilities, and food goes down the list because it's not a fixed expense.
"A lot of these people are working adults who are having trouble making ends meet."
The grant is a "big chunk of change" for the Mobile Food Pantry, Hartline said. HRC had to take Mountain Ranch off the pantry's schedule.
Many Mountain Ranch residents were getting aid from the food bank in San Andreas.