Pantries hope to stock shelves with event
Area food pantries are reporting a great increase in demand but a shrinking supply in products as more and more families are relying on them for assistance.
“Last year, from January to June, we had 466 appointments. This year, we have had 675,” said Carolyn Momenee, co-director of the SHARE food pantry in Milford.
And many pantries have seen an even greater percentage of increase.
“We are used to getting 20 families on days when we supply food, and we consider that really busy, and now we are getting 60 families,” said Pauline Boisvert, from the St. Vincent De Paul Society Food Pantry. “And it’s going to continue getting worse. I would say by September we are going to be servicing anywhere between 80 and 100 people.”
In an effort to combat this trend, the Nashua Chamber of Commerce, St. Joseph Hospital and the Southern New Hampshire Medical Center started the Summer Food Drive, which had been taking donations throughout the entire month to try and increase the supplies for needy families.
“We started it last month,” Mary-Ellen Marcouillier from the Nashua Chamber of Commerce. “We collected over 1,800 pounds of food at the first stop at the Market Basket in Nashua and we were really excited about that.”
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However, the demand for food was so high, that nearly as soon as it came in, it was gone.
There are places that we have already given them three hundred pounds of food,” Marcouillier said. “And within a day, they are out.”
The last stop of the Food Drive is today at the Lowell Road Market Basket in Hudson. Nearly each one of the food pantries is still in desperate need of food and personal items.
“We are running really low on breakfast cereal, spaghetti sauce, rice, beans, soup and vegetables,” said Charlotte David, who runs the food pantry at Nashua Christian Bible Church. “Pretty much everything people need.”
Another thing food pantries need is hygiene products such as toilet paper and paper towels.
“We are very, very low on items like cleaning products and personal items,” Boisvert said. “I try to keep those things handy for people because those types of things they can’t get with their food stamps.”
Even the people who are on food stamps are feeling an increasing crunch in their food supply.
“Hopefully the economy will be getting better and people will be getting jobs back,” Momenee said. “The layoffs certainly don’t help. The price of food doesn’t help either. Everything is going up and people are able to get less items.”
The increased need to provide breakfast and lunch for schoolchildren has contributed to the jump in pantry appointments this summer.
“With the kids being out of school, the free breakfast and lunch is no longer being provided for them,” Marcoullier said. “So they are at the pantries much more than usual because they have to eat.”
Many of the pantries are hoping to offset the increased food needs of the students with Nashua’s Summer Food Service Program. However, the need is still there.
“I have no snacks for the kids and no canned meats,” Boisvert said. “I won’t even have enough boxes of cereal for the next distribution.”
Despite the concerted effort of groups such as the Chamber of Commerce to increase the food supply, many families have normally been able to donate are instead trying to make sure they can feed themselves.
“I think a lot of it has to do with the economy,” Marcouillier said. “People just don’t have the extra funds that they used to have. It is just a combination of everything, and it is snowballing.”
“We just depend on the community to help as much as they can,” said Marietta Potter, director of the St. Patrick/Pelham Food Pantry. “But, this July, we have a shortage of just about everything.”
The Food Drive lasts from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. today, and the pantries hope to collect enough food and personal items to put a huge dent in shrinking supplies.
“We are really in dire need,” Marcouillier said. “Shelves have never been this bare.”