An annual fall food drive to stock the Johnstown-Northridge Food Pantry begins Monday, Sept. 29, and continues through Friday, Oct. 3.

An annual fall food drive to stock the Johnstown-Northridge Food Pantry begins Monday, Sept. 29, and continues through Friday, Oct. 3.

Boxes to collect donations have been placed in every school building in the Johnstown and Northridge school districts for the event, which is sponsored by the Johnstown Chapter 4324 Knights of Columbus.

"The (number of) people asking for help has doubled since last year," said Ruth Krumm, pantry director. "People don't realize how bad it is out there."

While the fall food drive usually stocks the pantry for the year, an increased need for assistance forced the pantry to dip into its treasury to purchase $300 in food to assist families that numbered 68 in April and 64 in March.

By Memorial Day weekend, the shelves were almost empty and a successful drive-through food collection was held at the pantry, located in the Johnstown Independent Baptist Church, 7397 Johnstown Alexandria Road.

The fall food drive includes a friendly competition between the Johnstown and Northridge high schools. In 2007, for the second consecutive year, Northridge collected more items than Johnstown.

Elementary classes that collect the most items are rewarded with a pizza party by the K of C.

During last year's collection, the school districts collected a total of 41,826 -- down from a record-breaking 52,017 donations in 2006.

"No matter how big or small the donation, it's greatly appreciated," Krumm said. "With the economy like it is, we might not get as much. There are a couple of families that have taken families for Secret Santa and now they're on the receiving end."

Krumm said she never thought the pantry would be low on macaroni and cheese but it is.

"We need peanut butter, too," she said. "That's another thing I thought we would never run out of. Right now I only have two cans of spaghetti sauce. I just bought some food. I received the nicest card, with no name or return address, and there was quite a bit of money in that card. We're using it to replenish the shelves as they get empty."

To be ready to meet the demand, Krumm would like to hear now from families if they think they'll need help during the holidays.

"We're going to try to have something for every child that needs help this year for Christmas," she said. "The minimum would be one piece of clothing or one toy or something the child wants."

Krumm said the Johnstown United Methodist and the Church of the Ascension have made large donations of food during recent months.

"Other churches have also helped," she said.

Krumm can be reached at 740-924-2835.