The Salvation Army says it is seeing two troubling trends as it feeds those in need in the Twin Cities: Demand at foodshelves is rising sharply, and the ranks of its volunteers have slipped.

The charity reported that from last October to March its eight food shelves served more than 16,700 households. That’s up 15 percent from 14,500 during the same period the year before. That also represents the largest increase in 11 years.

Hot meal programs also are busier. At the Salvation Army’s E. Lake Street location in Minneapolis last month, 1,500 families were fed hot meals and 300 were provided with groceries.

“The number of families who come to us for their food each month has nearly doubled in the past six months,” said Patti Estep, team leader at the E. Lake Street locale.

Other Salvation Army locations are also reporting increased demand, which will likely grow in the summer.

“We are just weeks away from kids being out of school,” said Jessica Herring, program administrator at the Salvation Army. “We always see a big jump in demand for food once they are no longer getting breakfast and lunch at school.”

Another challenge for the charity is to reverse the drop in volunteers. In particular, the need is critical for serving meals and packing groceries at four locations in the Twin Cities: 1604 E. Lake St.; 2727 Central Av. NE., Minneapolis; 1010 Currie Av., Minneapolis; and 401 W. 7th St., St. Paul.

The Twin Cities Salvation Army serves more than 218,000 people a year at 15 housing and shelter facilities and eight food shelves. It serves nearly 1,400 hot meals daily and shelters more than 1,000 people each night.

PAUL WALSH