AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREBlues bury Kings early with four first-period goals “We only had four Scouts participate in the annual Scouting for Food collection,” she said. “Some people donated through their churches and, really, people’s pockets are only so deep.” While supplies have stabilized, the number of people needing assistance has increased. In 2004, the pantry served 3,200 people. Now 3,427 – half of them children – actively rely on the pantry. Even though lines have been forming in front of the Railroad Avenue building early on pickup days, Crawford is concerned that people who need food are coming in less frequently because of transportation costs. “We polled the people who used to come in twice a month and now only come in once a month, and they all said it was because of the cost of gas,” she said. “They might combine trips to the pantry with doctor visits or whenever they can get a ride from the neighbor. If they depend on the bus, you can only take so much onboard. But if they don’t have the gas, we don’t see them, and that worries us.” The pantry recently started a new outreach program in the Acton-Agua Dulce area, where food is distributed the second Thursday of each month. Crawford said there have been fewer people from the Castaic and Val Verde areas, and she suspects the higher cost of gas is the culprit. SANTA CLARITA – Recent dips in Southern California food bank donations, brought about by relief efforts for Hurricane Katrina that diverted supplies and cash, had a limited effect locally. “Our donations were down a bit the week after the hurricane, but we fully expected that,” said Belinda Crawford, executive director of the Santa Clarita Valley Food Pantry. Crawford said there also was a local reduction in the variety available from the federal Emergency Food Assistance Program. “We usually can choose from 12 to 15 items; our choices went down to dried macaroni and dried lima beans,” she said. Crawford said limited donations have been on the minds of local nonprofit groups’ leaders and evident in smaller numbers of volunteers conducting food drives since the hurricane. `’We’re looking for some partners to help in those areas,” Crawford said, adding that the organization just needs a place to hold the periodic distributions. “I’ve been busy on the phone.” Pantry sponsors also are busy with the program Hunger Doesn’t Take A Holiday, which replaces the annual Adopt A Family campaign. Individuals, families, clubs and other groups are asked to donate gift cards from grocers and local variety stores to the pantry, rather than purchase gifts for children and food for a particular low-income family. “Who knows the children better than their parents?” Crawford said. “This brings the parents back into the giving role and makes them active participants, which is more dignified. I think it’s going to be so much more effective.” To donate gift cards to the pantry, mail or drop them off to 24133 Railroad Ave. in Newhall. For information or to volunteer at the pantry, call Crawford at (661) 255-9078. Food Pantry hours are 9 a.m. to noon Mondays through Thursdays and 10 a.m. to noon the first Saturday of each month. Senior Friday is the third Friday of each month. Carol Rock, (661) 257-5252 [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!