Food Bank demand increases

NAUGATUCK — With the holiday season nearing and many local families still feeling the effects of an economic recession, the Ecumenical Food Bank is calling on the generosity of the public to help meet its increased demand.

During the first nine months of this year, the total number of meals provided by the food bank increased by 21 percent compared with the same period of 2008. Through September, the nonprofit organization had given out 9,388 bags of food, totaling 68,769 meals. Among those receiving help were 169 new families; since the start of 2008, 378 families that never before required assistance have turned to the food bank.

“When people come to us for food, it doesn’t mean they’re poor,” EFB President Marty-Lee Fenton said. “Sometimes it’s because of sickness or they lost their job. No one plans for these things.”

One of the food bank’s upcoming projects is the distribution of holiday baskets Nov. 23. Each of the bank’s 14 member churches is responsible for collecting certain items, which include Thanksgiving turkeys, Christmas hams, various side dishes and additional meals for between the holidays.

“It’s just an amazing sight,” Fenton said of the morning when baskets are handed out. “It’s chaos, but it’s great chaos.”

Churches, schools and local service organizations furnish the food bank with lists of families in need of the baskets. Last year, the bank gave out 225 baskets.

While holiday baskets are available by invitation only, the food bank welcomes anyone in need of assistance during its regular hours: Tuesdays, 2-4 p.m., and Fridays, 10 a.m.-noon. The Ecumenical Food Bank offers three-day emergency supplies of food to each member of the families it serves. Families are eligible to receive these emergency supplies twice a month but Fenton reports many have started accepting food only once a month in an effort to keep the bank’s shelves stocked for other families.

The food bank, which serves Naugatuck and Beacon Falls residents, began in 1984 as a project of the conference of churches of those two towns. It was incorporated as a nonprofit organization in 1986. Member churches operate the bank, with help from community volunteers.

According to Fenton, food bank donations wax and wane throughout the year, and although she looks forward to the spike usually enjoyed during the holidays, she hopes people will continue to be generous all year.

“People aren’t hungry just at Thanksgiving,” she said.