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Food pantries ask for support during holiday season

December 10, 2009
OSSIPEE —Local food pantries are facing an increase in demand this holiday season and organizers are hoping for a strong flow of charitable contributions and support to help them make ends meet.

"It's been a tough season in terms of numbers but the support from the community has been phenomenal," said Howie Knight, treasurer of Wakefield Food Pantry.

Demand is up about 3 percent cent comparing numbers of individuals served as of November to the same period last year. As of November 2009, the food pantry served 6,100 people. Last year, that number was about 5,900.

The national economy stung the food pantry the hardest about two years ago, said Knight. Since the pantry's inception in 2004, demand has surged 111 percent. Back in 2004, it served 3,000 people. In 2008 it served a total of 6,500, said Knight.

Luckily, a good amount of donations have been coming in, he said. Local businesses have been "incredibly supportive." Examples of community efforts include Seven Lakes Provisions' fundraiser raffle and the Province Lake Golf Course annual tournament, which raises funds for several local food pantries.

Also, the food pantry has always been fortunate to have a large group of about 45 volunteers, that's roughly equivalent to one percent of the town's population, said Knight.

On Dec. 19 when Wakefield Food Pantry will distribute about 100 Christmas food baskets between 9 a.m. and noon. Recipients don't have to pre-register because the food baskets are distributed on the honor system.

Wakefield Food Pantry can always use more financial donations, volunteers, and toiletry items (because they can't be purchased at a discount though a supplier,) said Knight.

Agape Food Ministries, of Ossipee, was hard hit last month by a 30 percent increase in the demand for Thanksgiving food baskets. About 330 families signed up for food baskets this year, said co-founder Kevin Straughan.

"The demand tapped us," he said.

On the positive side, Straughan said he's thankful the food ministry has always had as many volunteers as it needs. Before Thanksgiving, Agape had many volunteers stuffing the baskets in an assembly line fashion.

Now, Agape needs to prepare its Christmas baskets. In addition to monetary donations, Agape Food Ministries will need canned corn, peas, and green beans. When it gets closer to Christmas, Agape will also need fresh potatoes. The deadline for donations is Dec. 21. Straughan would like to include additional items such as pasta and sauce because Agape is closed for about 10 days after the holiday. Food can be dropped off at the Ossipee Valley Bible Church from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Agape doesn't just cover holidays. It provides meals year around. In October, Agape served 608 families, of which some came more than once during the month. To help cover the cost of the food ministry, Agape opened a thrift store in the bottom of Ossipee Valley Bible Church about six months ago. Money is especially tight because a private foundation that had been assisting Agape cut its support this year due to the economy.

"We're still here and Lord willing we'll keep on going," said Straughan.

Both Agape Food Ministries and Wakefield Food Pantry rely on the New Hampshire Food Bank in Manchester for some of their provisions. The Food Bank is a nonprofit 501C3 organization that distributes discounted grocery products to food pantries and soup kitchen across New Hampshire.

Demand on the Food Bank is up 40 percent but donations have been increasing as well, said Food Bank's Director of Development Anne Dalton. Last year, the Food Bank distributed 5 million pounds of food. In 2009, the Food Bank hit that number last month.

"The need is up so high that we can't keep up," said Dalton.

However, the holidays are not the hardest part of the year to cover, said Dalton. The summer months are when the need spikes because children, who are on free or reduced cost lunch at school, are on summer vacation. There are several ways to make a donation to the Food Bank. For more information visit www.nhfoodbank.org.

Agape Food Ministries can be contacted at 539-4446. Donations can be mailed to Agape Ministries 40 Route 16B Center Ossipee 03814. Wakefield Food Pantry can be reached at 522-3097.

Other charitable causes:

• The Ossipee Children's Fund is facing a $7,000 cut in funding from the state. The Children's Fund helps needy families afford activities for their children including camp, karate lessons, and dance class. The Children's Fund will be holding fundraisers in the spring but it could use donations now. "We need money," said treasurer Cecily Clark. Donations can be sent to Ossipee Children's Fund,
P.O. Box 685,
Center Ossipee, NH 03814. It can be reached by phone at 569-2871

• Mountain View Nursing Home is raising money to buy a new bus. Members of the public can make a donation to the cause by holiday shopping though CharityBlast.com. The Web site will donate a portion of every purchase made online to the nursing home at no extra cost to the shopper. Participating online stores include Target, Best Buy, Old Navy, and Staples. The money will be used to replace an old worn out bus that takes seniors out into the community. Since November, the nursing home has raised $10,000. "We're pleased," said Administrator Sandra McKenzi.

• Children at Effingham Elementary School are collecting spaghetti for local food pantries. The due date is Dec. 21. Effingham Elementary School is located at 6 Partridge Cove Road in Effingham. It can be reached at 539-6032.

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