In May 1-7 issue
By Derek Aaron & Cody York
Times Journal Reporter & InternABOVE: Stock on the shelves at God's Food Pantry sometimes is running low as prices for food increase.
RUSSELL SPRINGS - With gas prices in Russell County steamrolling toward the $4 mark, many people have been hit hard in their pockets and are having trouble affording even everyday necessities such as food.
"I spend at least $100 dollars a week on groceries and $150 on gas," said Jackie Passmore, a customer at Kroger in Russell Springs. "These prices are outrageous."
Susie Smith, who works at Kroger, said she has a plan to try and save money while doing her grocery shopping.
"I go for bargains, discounts and markdowns whenever I can," she said. "I try to stretch what I have and buy things that will make more full meals instead of frozen, single-serve entrees." She also said she is patronizing restaurants less and doing more cooking at home.
That seems to have a following. David Reese, manager at Kay's Bestway in Jamestown, said he has witnessed a trend of "conservative buying."
"I believe they're cooking at home more," he said. "You can tell they're not eating out as much because they're buying more beans, potatoes and roast."
With the high cost of gas a struggle for many to even be able to make it to the grocery, Reese said Kay's was doing it's best not to raise food prices.
"They've come up a little," he said of the food prices. "We've been holding meat prices steady."
He said he knew his customers were having it rough, so his store was doing whatever it can to accommodate the customer.
One such accommodation is the purchasing of grocery products for customers at sales where the prices are lower. Kay's can then sell the discounted food to the customer.
Reese said he has recently seen an increase in customers at the store as more and more people are deciding to stay at home, rather than burn expensive gasoline in their vehicles
"Used to, people would load up and go to Somerset, Campbellsville, Louisville and Lexington to eat out, but I bet those people are staying at home more, now," he said.
"Our business has been excellent."
Still some are hesitant about spending too much on groceries and opt to stay away.
"We try to stay away from the grocery as often as possible," said Bob Rice, a customer, along with his wife, Judy, at Kroger. "We do this so we aren't tempted to buy things we don't need."
The Rice's said they hunt for bargains and always shop for cheaper items.
"We just bought Big K pop instead of the name brand," he said.
Tina Begley has also found herself buying more conservatively at the grocery.
"I try to cut out things I don't need, especially more expensive items," she said. She said she also buys generic or store brand versions of more higher-priced items to help save money "before going broke."
Another dollar saver would be Skaggs' Glass and Gifts on Bernard Ridge in Russell Springs.
At the store, Joel and Shella Skaggs offer a variety of items such as salvaged food and drinks, flowers, books, toys, pocket knives and crafts for an inexpensive price.
"I'd say our businesses had picked up recently," said Shella. "People are looking more and more for stuff they can afford."
She said people are looking for items that are used and less expensive, rather than pay a higher full price.
At Skaggs', depending upon the item, prices tend to be at least 50 percent less than what you could find them for in larger, retail outlets.
Shella said the store does its best business on Saturday, when more people brave the high gas prices, and head out to do their errands and shopping.
The Skaggs said they wondered how high fuel prices would have to get before people began to seriously curb their driving.
"But people aren't going to walk," Joel said. "I know I'm not."
Shella said she thought people would continue driving, but cut back on other things in their life.
Barbara Zimmerman, another Kroger patron, said the prices were extra hard on the retired population or anyone with a fixed income. Some may even have to choose whether to fill their medication or choose to eat.
Under situations such as this, God's Food Pantry in Russell Springs can become a major asset to the home.
At the pantry, people can come in, answer a few short questions on paper and then — if they meet the criteria — are eligible for both perishable and non-perishable food items for free.
Margaret Thrasher, overseer of the pantry for nearly two decades, said it couldn't stay open without the donations of money and food it receives from individuals and area churches.
Thrasher said the pantry had yet to seen an influx of people coming to the pantry for food because of high gas prices and other expenses just yet.
"Our numbers have stayed about the same recently," she said.
She said the pantry most often helps transients and people who have recently moved to the area and are still trying to get their feet on the ground, financially.
According to pantry worker Kim Reynolds, the pantry has helped 29 people in April.
Reynolds said for families with children, the biggest necessities are milk, bread and eggs. Also, he said a person must prove they have a child to obtain these foods.
Thrasher said the pantry also helps a lot of elderly people with fixed incomes in the community get their food.
Dorothy Porter, a worker at the pantry, said she believed the high cost of gasoline would eventually force more people in the county to look to alternate food sources for their families, such as the pantry.
So, as the price of gas soars to record-highs each day, Russell Countians are being forced to make an unthinkable decision: gasoline in the tank or food in the belly.