Food pantries face a time of need

NASHUA – In the food pantry world, September sits on a cusp between have and have-not months.

It’s a tenuous place for providers and equally worrisome for those in need. And it’s where Lucille L’Heureux, social worker at the Salvation Army, found herself Tuesday.

“We have more people than usual, an overabundance of people who are hungry,” L’Heureux said. “There’s no pasta, no stews, only USDA foods, but not enough (variety) to make a meal.”

Earlier in the day, the social worker traveled to Manchester to the statewide food bank only to find that it too was low on supplies.

“They didn’t have everything I needed,” L’Heureux said, ticking off a list that included pasta, macaroni and cheese, peanut butter, canned soups, canned meat, poultry and fish, beans, rice, breakfast cereals, dried fruit, diapers, soap, shampoo, toothpaste and toothbrushes, and deodorant.

“We need everything.”

At the Salvation Army, whenever a family or individual asks for food, workers there try to provide enough for two meals a day for five days. But Tuesday, the only meat in the freezer was hot dogs and there were no cold cuts for sandwiches, a favorite with children.

“This time of the year is always like this,” L’Heureux said. “During the summer months, children are home and they need food (and) we’re very busy. Our food bank gets depleted.”

It’s the same everywhere.

From July through October, food donations dwindle, putting both givers and receivers on edge. Then November arrives, the tide turns, and school and church donations begin a steady flow that culminates in a flood of giving through Thanksgiving and the winter holidays.

“This is the edge, that in-between time,” said Eileen Brady, social worker at the Nashua Soup Kitchen and Shelter. “It’s that bad time of the year.”

Kim Odierna, director of business operations at the Nashua Pastoral Care Center, agreed.

“We’re a little low right now,” she said Tuesday. “Not completely empty.”

Odierna said her agency is currently short on pasta, sauce, macaroni and cheese and stews.

“In the summer, you run out. Kids are home from school and don’t get breakfast and lunches,” she said. “In November, it will pick up. The Boy Scouts have a drive, at Christmas people give. But usually from mid-summer to October, it runs pretty dry.”

L’Heureux said she is hoping donors ignore the calendar. Hungry children can’t wait until November to eat, she said. Nor can their mothers and fathers.