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Filling up local food pantries

Posted By December 11, 2014 | 6:50 pm | Featured Article #4
Photo by Tanya Connor
Maureen Dunn, a volunteer for the St. Paul’s Outreach food pantry, left, and Dorrie Maynard, food pantry manager, fill boxes for customers. With proof of zip code, neighbors of the 19 Chatham St. food pantry can come monthly for food, and any donated items, including pet food. The pantry is open 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays and 5-7 p.m. Thursdays. This October the pantry served 781 individuals, 90 of whom were new.
Photo by Tanya Connor Maureen Dunn, a volunteer for the St. Paul’s Outreach food pantry, left, and Dorrie Maynard, food pantry manager, fill boxes for customers. With proof of zip code, neighbors of the 19 Chatham St. food pantry can come monthly for food, and any donated items, including pet food. The pantry is open 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays and 5-7 p.m. Thursdays. This October the pantry served 781 individuals, 90 of whom were new.

By Patricia O’Connell
CFP Correspondent

Cash is king.
At least that’s the case at the St. Vincent de Paul food pantry at Saint John Paul II Parish in Southbridge.
During Advent, some people might be wondering what type of presents they can give to their local parish-based food bank, which serve the needy throughout the diocese.
“In terms of what we need most is money,” said Len Lazure, co-director of the Southbridge food pantry.
Mr. Lazure explained why money is more useful than any other type of donation. For every dollar received, he said, it’s possible to convert that into $20 or $30 worth of food. This happens because it enables the St. Vincent de Paul Society to obtain free food from Worcester County Food Bank, with the donation being used to offset the maintenance or handling fee.
For instance, the cost of a case of cereal might be just $1. “We can take that and turn it into an awful lot,” he noted.
The Southbridge food pantry is extensive, occupying nearly three rooms at the Ministry Center. This space includes 11 refrigerators and three aisles of food.
This food bank is designed much like a grocery store, which enables clients to browse the shelves and choose what they want to eat.
This system has proven to be more efficient than handing out bags of food, said Mr. Lazure, who added, “People don’t take what they really don’t like.”
“It allows them to have their choice,” he said. “They’re not taking that food and giving it to a neighbor or letting it waste away because they don’t eat (it). They’re limited to how much they can have, but they can take what they like. They’re going to eat it and nothing will be wasted.”
Mr. Lazure said, for instance, seniors may only fill one bag because they know this is all they’ll consume.
He estimates that his parish food pantry serves about 389 families, or more than 1,000 people every month. Of this total, about 160 clients are seniors, who belong to a special program called the “Senior Supplement Program.”
This program take place at a different time than the regular food bank, he said, noting that many older people are now having trouble surviving, with one of the factors being the high price of medication. Sometimes, in order to help, they are given small gift certificates to the CVS pharmacy.
Mr. Lazure noted that these seniors are a “different type of client,” as most of them worked hard in their younger years, but still can’t make it today, on a fixed income.
The Southbridge food pantry serves people of all faiths in the communities of Southbridge and Sturbridge. This all-volunteer group runs with the help of 70 people. Many, but not all, of these volunteers belong to Saint John Paul II Parish.
Mr. Lazure said that in addition to donations of cash, other food items very much needed are for people on special diets, such as gluten-free or low sodium.
Ann Bissonette and Rosemary Scales volunteer at the St. Vincent de Paul food pantry at St. Leo Parish in Leominster. They noted that during the Thanksgiving and Christmas season, pies are always appreciated.
“We like pies,” said Mrs. Bissonette. “We set a goal about four years ago – a pie and turkey in every basket.”
During the year, what’s needed most, in terms of donations, are shampoo and personal care items.
She suggests that if people are thinking of giving a gift, they should ask their local food pantry what is needed most.
Mrs. Bissonette noted that someone donated a new freezer, which was much appreciated.
Jim Archibald at St. John Parish in Worcester, noted the great need there is for more food.
“We’ll take anything that’s non perishable, that doesn’t have to be refrigerated,” he said, naming some of the most useful types of foods, such as Chef Boyardee Beef-a-roni, Ramen noodles, pasta and pasta sauce, macaroni and cheese and peanut butter and jelly.
Because of food shortages, Mr. Archibald said the pantry, which serves about 60 to 75 families, has been forced to reduce its hours of operation from three days to one. It’s now open only on Fridays, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
In Worcester, Maureen Dunn, a volunteer for the St. Paul’s Outreach food pantry, often helps Dorrie Maynard, food pantry manager fill boxes for their customers.
With proof of zip code, neighbors of the 19 Chatham St. food pantry can come monthly for food, and any donated items, including pet food. The pantry is open 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays and 5-7 p.m. Thursdays.
Every month the number of clients increases, though not everyone comes every month, said Ms. Maynard. This October the pantry served 781 individuals, 90 of whom were new, she said. The pantry gets an average of 9,000 pounds of food per month from Worcester County Food Bank, buying a little of it, and also gets donations from parish and private food drives.
Ms.Maynard said Notre Dame Academy just brought a lot of really good food, a St. Paul’s Cathedral parishioner donates fresh fruit weekly and another gives diapers twice a month. Pantry volunteers include students from the College of the Holy Cross.