The pantry shelves are stacked with non-perishable food items. In agencies and churches, volunteers are sorting piles of clothing and toys and personal toiletry items. Phones are ringing off the hooks as Utahns offer personal time, money and gifts for people in need.

It looks like Christmas time.Despite an outpouring of charity, program operators say they see more human needs than solutions. An increased number of people are asking for help. Some are shy, some embarrassed, others merely matter-of-fact about it.

Though November unemployment was slightly lower than in 1989, people who provide services to the poor and disadvantaged say 1990 has been a hard year for clients. They also say Utahns have risen valiantly to the occasion, giving money, material and even love.

"The need in the community is tremendous. There are a lot more people not working or working at such minimum wage jobs that such things as Christmas are luxuries. We've just been overwhelmed," said Cathy Hoskins, director of operations at the Salt Lake Community Action Program.

"We are seeing a lot of people who are working - and two-parent households where both are making minimum wage - and still living at poverty level. Our food pantries are operating at absolute capacity."

"People who may not be willing to take welfare during the rest of the year will generally be willing to take it at Christmas for the children's sake," said Terry Twit-chell, Human Services public information officer. "Public assistance, Medicaid, food stamps; they've all gone up."

There was a "marked jump" in Aid to Families with Dependent Children cases from October to November: 92 cases, said Cindy Haag, director of the Office of Family Services. In November 1989, Utah had 15,310 families on AFDC and 34,257 on food stamps. In 1990, AFDC has increased to 15,982 and food stamp caseloads to 37,547. Frequently, food stamps are the only public assistance for which the "working poor" qualify, she said.

"I think poverty is growing," said Charles Johnson, director of Salt Lake's United Way. "The complexity of needs when people are laid off, when companies are downsizing, when a young person looks for a job, it's just not that easy any more."

Weather may share the blame for increased need, according to Steve Winitzky, associate director of Utahns Against Hunger. "It's kind an an annual thing. Fuel costs are up. And I think we may be beginning to feel symptoms of a recession. People who are poor are really at a wall."

More fortunate Utahns seem to be chipping away at that wall. Richard K. Winters, director of the Community Services Council, described Utahns this year as "very giving. There have been a number of food drives and things. But because so much giving only occurs between Thanksgiving and Christmas, we call it `occasional fits of charity.' The need, of course, is year-round. No one wants to discourage holiday giving. But we'd sure like to see some of it the rest of the year."

"Giving has been great," said Tom Can-delaria, collecting clothing and other items for the "Forgotten Patient Program" for people with mental illness. "We're going to be able to help people year-round."

"This is an inspirational time of year," said Winitzky. "We've experienced just a slew of calls. People saying, what can we do to help?"

"We find many individuals from all walks of life are very interested in trying to share the holiday spirit. They are looking for someone they can relate to and assist with some type of gift, a lot of sincerity and a willingness to share," said Johnson. "I always try to point out that the same individual will be in need on his birthday, other holidays, year-round. Not just at Christmas."