Food bank reserves running low

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SHELTON — Spooner House provided 61,000 meals to families in need in the Naugatuck River Valley in 2008. Last year, it jumped to more than 137,000, a spike of 76,000 meals.

And the numbers keep growing. All across the region, the number of needy families keeps growing and the job of feeding them keeps getting harder

In order to meet the soaring need, food pantry shelves need restocking. Some food collection drives have already launched. Spooner House in Shelton kicks off its food drive Saturday.

“This is extremely bare,” said Susan Agamy, executive director of Spooner House, looking out over the shelves at the organization’s food bank Thursday. “It’s tough.”

Spooner House serves residents in Beacon Falls, Naugatuck, Seymour, Shelton, Oxford, Ansonia, and Derby.

Started 10 years ago, Spooner House’s annual Valley Has a Heart food drive fills in the gap following the holidays until the National Letter Carriers’ food collection in May. Agamy said donations typically drop off after the holidays.

Volunteers Saturday will collect nonperishable food and cash donations at three Stop & Shop locations, including Seymour. Shoppers will be handed a flier with a list of needed items including canned/powdered milk, soups, peanut butter and canned vegetables.

Agamy said some folks have donated a single item, while others have come out with a cartload.

“People are good,” Agamy said. “They want to help. I firmly believe that. It’s easy for them to do. It makes an impact.”

Last year’s drive collected 55 cartloads and $1,600 in cash donations at three locations, compared to 31cart loads and $1,500 in cash donations in 2010 at only two locations.

The agency hopes to amass 60 cartloads and $3,000 in cash this year, Agamy said.

Spooner House, which is operated by the nonprofit Area Congregations Together, is already up 7 to 8 percent this year in meals, she said. Clients primarily are unemployed or underemployed; even some past donors are becoming clients, she said.

Its primary food bank is at the Shelton facility, and serves clients by appointment from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday.