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‘They must have really needed it,’ police chief says after food theft



Police say whoever broke into the Letcher County Food Pantry most likely stole about $800 worth of food for self-consumption.

Tom Watko, co-director of the food pantry, said about two weeks’ worth of food was stolen.

“They didn’t take everything, but they took enough items to feed about 20 families,” said Watko. “It’s always the hope that it was for a family that needed it. It took from other families that need it.”

The front door of the food pantry was pried open sometime between 3 p.m. on Friday and 7 a.m. on Monday. A volunteer noticed the front door was open Monday morning when he came to unload food donations.

“For someone to go to the measures they did to do that, they must have really needed it,” said Whitesburg Police Chief Tyrone Fields. “You wouldn’t think people would steal from the food pantry. A criminal would have no reason to break in there. There’s no money. There was nothing there of any value to them other than food. The only value of this food would be to eat it.”

Shelves were stocked full of food Friday afternoon in a room where volunteers pack boxes of food to be picked up by people who meet eligibility requirements. Those shelves were empty Monday morning.

Watko said some of the items taken were federal commodities distributed through God’s Pantry. Commodities taken include boxes of Shredded Wheat cereal, macaroni, green beans, shelf safe milk and 33 10-pound bags of chicken leg quarters.

One- pound ground turkey chubs, vegetables, drinks and Nabisco snacks were also taken from the pantry. Also stolen were some of the boxes of food that were ready to give out. A bag of toiletry items was also picked up during the break-in.

Watko said the food pantry still had quit a bit of food stored in another part of the building. Volunteers restocked shelves Tuesday and packed boxes to be handed out Wednesday (today).

“I would just like whoever did it to come forward and say they did it,” said Fields. “There are other resources we can put them in contact with.”

Boxes of food vary depending on the number in households. Depending on availability, boxes usually contain cereal, a meat product (frozen or canned), cheese, soup, crackers, fruit juice, water, canned drink and vegetables. Extra items may include cookies, chips, doughnuts or other items donated to the pantry.

The Letcher County Food Pantry has a base of about 1,500 people, but not everyone gets food each month. The food pantry uses a filing card system to keep track of who picks up food and when they do it. Recipients show proof of identification and sign for the food.

Those interested in getting food from the pantry are required to apply at Leslie-Knott-Letcher-Perry (LKLP) Community Action Council offices at 2 Main Street in Whitesburg. An interview is conducted to determine whether the person meets eligibility guidelines. Since the food pantry receives some commodities through God’s Pantry Food Bank, federal guidelines are followed.

The Letcher County Food Pantry, located at 204 Madison Ave., is open from noon until 3 p.m. Wednesday through Friday. It is operated out of a house owned by Whitesburg First Baptist Church, which also pays the water and electric bill.

The Letcher County Food Pantry serves residents who live from Millstone to the Perry and Knott county lines.

Donations are tax-exempt. Mail monetary donations to Letcher County Food Pantry, P.O. Box 416, Whitesburg, KY, 41858. Call the food pantry at 633-5881.



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