Resident starts program to fill food pantries

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Coupon clipper figures what’s good for the household can work for charity, By Fran Hardy
Sparta Suzanne Stigers believes even one person can make a difference when it comes to helping those in need. Feeding increasing numbers of hungry individuals and families from increasingly empty food pantries may seem like a daunting task for most people, but Stigers has come up with a way to make a maximum contribution for a minimum investment of funds. She clips coupons.
Stigers has been a Sparta resident since 1980 and is now married and raising a young child in the community. She’s always been a coupon-clipper for her own shopping and says organizing them and planning shopping trips accordingly has always come easily for her. After learning recently that local food pantries were facing near-empty shelves going into the busiest season of the year, she thought, “What if I do for the local food pantries what I do for my own family?” She said the thought of people being hungry made her think how terrifying it would be not to be able to provide for her own daughter.
So Stigers came up with the idea to clip coupons for the community as well. On one shopping trip alone she was able to donate $220 worth of groceries and toiletries to the Ecumenical Food Pantry at Sparta’s First Presbyterian Church for only $25.
She has now taken this idea to the next level and is spreading the word that her “Coupons for the Community” program can be a simple and cost-free way for everyone to help fill food pantries and contribute to needy families. She reached out to the Sparta First Presbyterian Church, the Sparta United Methodist Church, and the Our Lady of the Lake Church asking them to post blurbs in their bulletins about donating unwanted coupons. She got a lot of positive feedback and coupon donations.
Stigers said, “The beauty of this program is that I’m not asking people to donate their own food or money. These are hard economic times. But if they have unwanted coupons that would otherwise be thrown away, they can donate them to this program. Coupons can stretch dollars and provide for many needs.”
For example, food stamps do not cover non-edible essentials like toiletries, so families served by the food pantries are always in need of these as well as food. Toiletries can be expensive and pantries rely on donations to supply them. Coupons, Stigers said, are a way to provide much needed toiletries at minimal cost.
To kick off the holiday season, “Coupons for the Community” will be hosting a booth at the Lake Mohawk Boardwalk as part of the German Christmas Market starting on Friday, Dec. 4. The annual event takes place from 1 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 5. Stigers said, “The organizers of the Christmas Market have generously donated a booth to us. This is a great opportunity for “Coupons for the Community” to receive not only coupon donations, but food and toiletries for the local food pantry .”
Janice Ernsting, who is in charge of the Sparta Ecumenical Food Council at First Presbyterian Church, said, “Suzanne has been just amazing. This is such a simple and clever idea, I wonder why no one thought of it before.”
Stigers said she learned through her research that manufacturers print $330 billion dollars worth of coupons each year and only around $3 billion dollars in coupons are redeemed. “With just a few pennies and some unwanted coupons, I think we can all make a big difference in our communities,” Stigers said. Similar programs have already been started in Los Angeles, Phoenix, and Bennington, New Hampshire.
Stigers said that if ten people worked with her in purchasing groceries with donated coupons, she believes they could provide between $80,000 to 90,000 worth of goods for food pantries. She said typically food drives are more frequently supported during the holiday season, but with support for “Coupons for the Community” donations can remain strong throughout the year.
Coupon donations can be dropped off at the First Presbyterian Church, United Methodist Church, and Our Lady of the Lake Church. For more information contact Suzanne at"> or at 973-347-8737.

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