Tough times have made it hard for a lot of folks to make ends meet. 

More and more people depend on their local food pantry to feed their families and that's putting a strain on places such as the Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee.

Donations are not down, but this year, more people are asking for help.

"And when you see empty, empty shelves, that means there are empty stomachs in this neighborhood," said Chris Sanders, development director of St. Luke's Community House in West Nashville.

These days it's hard to keep the pantry stocked at the St. Luke's Community House. This makes life even harder for the families who depend on the food pantry.

"The combination of more people coming in plus less food available is really causing us, in some cases, to have to give smaller food baskets," Sanders said.

Empty shelves, they're a problem at food pantries across Metro... and that's because the main supplier of these organizations is having a tough year.

"It's just the need has increased," he said.

Second Harvest has had to find a way to feed another 160 families a month - Nashville's working poor.

"They have to make a choice, do I heat my home for my family, do I purchase food or do I purchase gas to go to work?" said Marina Falzone, director of marketing and communications at Second Harvest.

Food donations are not keeping pace with the families who depend on them. 

That's why every kernel of corn counts.

"That can make the difference between a child going to be hungry, or sleeping with a full belly," Falzone said.

"No fruit, I mean, I think that's very telling," said Sanders, facing empty shelves.

Second Harvest has made it easy for people to donate to its "Emergency Food Box" program. 

Stores such as Kroger, Publix and Food Lion have pre-made food bundles shoppers can buy. The stores will arrange food delivery to Second Harvest, which will get it to the people who need it the most.

In 2007, the agency distributed more that 37 million pounds of food in 46 counties throughout Middle and West Tennessee.

This article has been republished from Out & About Nashville, and was part of a series of first-person pieces written by the late Bobbi Williams.

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