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Wakefield Food Pantry looking for a new home

October 28, 2010
WAKEFIELD — The Wakefield Parks and Recreation Department is running out of space and its building is not handicap accessible. Since there is little likelihood of finding or acquiring more space elsewhere, it needs to expand where it is.

As a result, the Wakefield Food Pantry is now looking for a new home.

The Parks and Recreation Department currently shares space in the former police station next to Turntable Park with the Food Pantry and the Welfare Department.

On Sept. 8 Parks and Recreation Director Wayne Robinson approached Wakefield selectmen with a proposal to purchase the Meyer building at 27 Meadow St. for $525,000 to accommodate his department's expanding programs and provide handicap access. Selectmen gave little support to the idea of purchasing that building or any other.

The Food Pantry now has until next June to find a new home.

According to Food Pantry President Janet Miller, the pantry would need at least 1,000 square feet of interior space plus parking for 20 to 30 cars. "We are looking for either pre-existing usable buildings or a lot to build on," she said. A lot to build on would need to be about of an acre.

Selectmen suggested that the food pantry relocate to the Greater Wakefield Resource Center in Union, but Miller says that this is not a workable solution since most of the served families live in Sanbornville and many walk to the pantry. The pantry also serves residents of Brookfield.

About the pantry

On average the pantry serves 50 low-income families per week. Miller says about 32 percent of the individuals served are children and 9 percent are elderly. "Each year we see growth in the number of families that we serve and it is expected that rising energy and healthcare costs will take up more of the food budgets for families and therefore the number of families we serve will increase."

The number of individuals served by the Wakefield Food Pantry has increased from 3,087 in 2004 to 6,724 by the end of 2009. The number of children under 18 served has grown from 1,107 in 2004 to 2,139 in 2009, and the number of seniors has grown from 176 to 752. With that growth in the number of people served, the number of meals served has more than doubled, from 27,318 in 2004 to 60,516 in 2009.

The growth is continuing in 2010, with the number of individuals served through September increasing from 5,021 in 2009 to 5,239 in 2010. The cost per meal through September has also soared over 57 percent, from 36 cents in 2009 to 56 cents in 2010.

The current space is provided rent-free by the Town of Wakefield and the program is run entirely by 50 volunteers. This allows the Food Pantry to use nearly all monetary donations exclusively to buy food. In 2004 the pantry incorporated as a 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation, so all monetary donations are tax-deductible. The pantry also receives an annual payment from the Town of Brookfield.

Food is purchased from the New Hampshire Food Bank and local grocery stores. Lately the food supply from the New Hampshire Food Bank has been declining. Since the Food Bank is the least expensive supplier, lower supplies mean that more food must be bought locally and it costs more.

"We also have donations of produce and bakery goods from the Ossipee Hannaford store every week," Miller says. "In addition, during the growing season we have a volunteer group that picks fresh produce at local farms where the farmers donate to the local food pantries."

Miller says the food pantry receives excellent support from the local churches and has been in touch with them concerning available space, which appears to be limited.

"If any individuals or organizations have either property or buildings that might be suitable for our operation, please call the Food Pantry at 522-3094 and leave a message," Miller said. "The number is also available for food or cash donations."

Littleton Chmber
Varney Smith
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