Thursday, June 5, 2008

High food prices in Athens

by Ashlee Monroe

"Have you ever been to a place like this before?" an elderly woman in a church basement asks. "It's a madhouse from 12 to 1."

She is talking about the free lunch she helps serve at the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd every Wednesday. When you think of a free lunch at a church, you might expect to look around and see the huddled masses eating the first meal they've had in days. But the people gathered on this Wednesday afternoon didn't look "needy." College students and community members alike sat down together and just...ate lunch.

"This was not originally intended to be an act of charity," Betty Larson, volunteer at the Church of the Good Shepherd, explained.

Even so, at a time when people get excited that gas prices have gone all the way down to $3.99, anything can help. The Church of the Good Shepard, near Ohio University's Gordy Hall, serves the lunch weekly, relying on donations and a grant from the local diocese. Ohio University student Tommie Shimrock says he goes to the church every week for lunch with his friends. He says he enjoys not only getting a break on food prices, but also the company of the people who go to the lunch with him.

Ohio University student Tommie Shimrock talks about why he thinks people attend free lunches.

Though some of the people who congregate there say they do it for the good company, Good Works Director Keith Wasserman tells a different story.

Keith Wasserman talks about Good Works and national food prices.

Wasserman, who runs the local non-profit that includes a homeless shelter on Athens' west side, says that rapidly rising food prices are creating a worldwide food crisis. He says that the higher prices of gasoline and food are widening the gap between the rich and the poor. He even says he thinks that the middle class will soon become poor because of high food prices.

While Wasserman's claims remain to be seen, there is no denying that food prices are rising quickly. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the price of a gallon of milk went up 81 cents from January of 2007 to January of 2008. Grade A eggs have gone up 60 cents in the same time period.

"I think that gas prices are a main force in that," Wasserman says.

Other options for free meals in Athens are the Friday night supper for the hungry at Good Works, and Thursday free meals at UCM.

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