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Demand way up at food pantry

August 13, 2009
WAKEFIELD — Demand at the Wakefield Food Pantry has skyrocketed by 100 percent since 2005.

Wakefield Food Pantry Treasurer Howie Knight, responding to a query on the pantry's supply and demand, said late last week that the number of individuals using the pantry has gone up from 1,590 people from the time period January to June of 2005, to 3,187 individuals served in the same time period this year.

Compared with just last year, however, the latest number shows only a one percent increase over 2008. Knight said the recession "didn't happen overnight" and that actual food expenditures are on par with last year, about $11,000.

"We have seen a growth of recently unemployed individuals, and some of them might be short term. We are seeing some families having trouble making it, period. One of the largest areas we've been trying to focus on was the elderly, those over 60 years old. Those numbers have gone of. From January to June 2005, 104 persons over 60 were assisted; this year, that number is up to 367 it's gone up more than three times," said Knight, adding that the board has been attempting to assist this older age group that may be too proud to ask for assistance before.

Assistance has poured in from multiple sources, he notes. The U.S. Department of Agriculture was the first agency to receive federal stimulus funding and some of the funds went towards two extra food distributions mostly protein, like chicken or pork for the pantries. "That really helped us tremendously and helped keep us going," he added.

On top of federal funding, donations pour in from the collaborative of local churches and civic groups, the local farmers donate fresh fruits and vegetables now that the season has arrived, and local retailers like the Lovell Lake Market have been "phenomenal," Knight said. "It's mind-boggling."

He said the donation of an expensive walk in freezer last year enabled the pantry to receive and store more foods, like turkeys for holiday baskets. The food pantry board now boasts 45 volunteers who assist with many chores like the weekly food distributions. "The demand is there we had 48 families yesterday," said Knight. The weekly count varies between 45 to 50 families per week, with a recent high of 57 families, he added.

Donations of non perishables, and goods that they can't readily buy at the food bank like soaps, laundry detergent and personal care products, are welcome, but Knight adds that cash donations can go farther to purchase food at a significant discount 18 cents per pound as opposed to what a caseload price may be.

In addition, the Lovell Lake Market provides the food pantry with a discount for purchased food.

Monetary donations should be mailed to: Wakefield Food Pantry, P.O. Box 426, Sanbornville, NH 03872.

Food donations can be brought to the Pantry on Tuesdays from 9 to 11 a.m. or on Wednesday from 9 a.m. to noon or 5 - 7 p.m.

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