Catholic Free Press

Catholic Free Press Digital Edition

  • Jan
  • 9

Temperatures, economy affect those seeking aid

Posted By January 9, 2014 | 1:04 pm | Lead Story #3
1-10 food truckWEB

By William T. Clew

The recent cold snap, when temperatures dropped to near or below zero, seems to have had some effect on the people who depend on diocesan agencies for assistance.
But the economy apparently has affected people more.
Bill Riley, manager of the food pantry and St. Francis Xavier Center kitchen at St. John Parish on Temple Street, said the cold snap has had less effect on the number of people who come for meals than the Salvation Army Citadel soup kitchen on Main Street, which is closed for a couple of months for renovation. The Salvation Army food panty still is open.
Mr. Riley said the St. Francis Xavier Center kitchen hosts 200 to 250 daily since the Salvation Army closure. That’s up from the 175 to 200 who came regularly before the closure. He said that, because of the cold weather, some regulars at the kitchen tended to arrive later, 9 or 9:30 a.m. rather than an hour or so earlier.
At St. Peter Parish and St. Andrew Mission, more people than usual came to the food pantry Wednesday, according to Amie Neville, parish office manager. The pantry is open only on Wednesdays.
She said about 100 families visit the food pantry each week. This week about 130 came. She said the panty was closed for the holidays and that might have been a reason for the increase. She said more people, including “some people I’ve never seen before,” have been coming during the winter because the cost of food and fuel is so high. The number also increases when children are home for the holidays, she said.
Yildiz Laza, emergency services coordinator at Pernet Family Health Services, said that during the cold weather the number of people who came to the food pantry dropped off a bit.
Many live in the neighborhood and walk to the food pantry on Millbury Street and the cold kept some of them at home, she said.
Overall, however, the number of families served by the pantry has increased during the winter. Usually the pantry serves about 20 to 35 families a week. This winter that  number has increased to 30 to 40, including new families.
She said food stamps were cut by $30 a family member on Dec. 1. Others come because they have lost jobs or their unemployment checks have run out.
At St. Paul Cathedral Outreach, Dorrie Maynard, manager of the food pantry, said cold temperatures and icy sidewalks have kept some people who live in the neighborhood  away. She said she expects they will come in when it warms up and walking is easier for them.
Generally, she said, there has been an increase in people coming to the food pantry because of the cutback in food stamps.
Rick Nolin, president of the St. Vincent de Paul Society at Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Webster, said calls for fuel assistance have increased during the cold weather.
He said that many people are hurting in general for both fuel and food because of the economy and the food pantry “has been straight out.”
“We’ve been getting calls like crazy” for fuel, he said, because people can’t get fuel assistance.
The St. Vincent de Paul Society food pantry at St. Leo Parish in Leominster had fewer than normal visitors during the recent cold weather. Ellen Medeiros, who works at the parish, estimated that 12 or 15 families showed up Monday. Normally 20 to 25 would visit, she said.