Food banks hope drives help restock shelves

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Volunteer Patricia Parenti fills bags Oct. 28 at the Naugatuck Ecumenical Food Bank on Spring Street. –LUKE MARSHALL
Volunteer Patricia Parenti fills bags Oct. 28 at the Naugatuck Ecumenical Food Bank on Spring Street. –LUKE MARSHALL

On a chilly Friday morning a line of people stretched around the outside of an unassuming little building on Spring Street in Naugatuck. Inside the building volunteers were busy filling bags with bread, soup, vegetables and other necessities.

Although it may have seemed hectic looking at it from the outside, this was just an average day at the Naugatuck Ecumenical Food Bank.

The food bank, which is open Tuesdays from 2 to 4 p.m. and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., has been drawing record numbers of people in need. In 2013, the food bank drew 60 families a week. This year the numbers are almost twice as high, according to Director Marty Lee Fenton.

“We are averaging 50 families each time we are open. That’s 100 families a week,” Fenton said. “It just keeps going up and up.”

Fenton said most of the increase comes from families that have never been to the food bank before.

“We have approximately 14 families a month that are new. We hear the same stories. ‘I can’t believe I need to be here. I am trying to find a job,’” Fenton said. “It’s just unbelievable. I don’t know what we need to make things turn around. There is just no work out there for anybody.”

Due to the increase in demand the food bank has been giving out more food than before. While the shelves are not bare, Fenton said she is looking forward to upcoming holiday food drives to get the food bank through the rest of the year.

“A lot of what comes in now hopefully holds us through February. Come March and April we are hurting again,” Fenton said.

In Prospect, the town-run food bank is running low on supplies, Mayor Robert Chatfield said. However, he said, food drives held around this time typically help restock the shelves.

Chatfield said the town hasn’t seen an increase in the number of people using the food banks, but it hasn’t seen a decrease either.

“I think it’s kind of steady,” Chatfield said. “Closer to the holidays the use of canned goods is a little higher as people get the fixings for their holiday meals.”

Chatfield said residents in need of assistance should call Prospect Town Hall at 203-758-4461. Chatfield said this is done so almost no one knows who is using the food bank. Anyone who would like to donate food should also contact Town Hall, Chatfield said.

The Prospect food bank is set up like a grocery store, with food grouped together by type. People are able to come and pick up what they need, Chatfield said.

Due to the size of the building and number of people it serves, the food bank in Naugatuck works a little differently.

Volunteers at the Naugatuck Ecumenical Food Bank fill bags depending on the size of the family. The bags are then distributed to those waiting in line.

Fenton said people who want to donate to the food bank can bring items to the food bank, 75 Spring St., when it’s open.

The food bank is most in need of items that Fenton calls “gremlins.” These are items that most people use but often don’t think to donate, such as mayonnaise, ketchup, pickles, rice, pancake mix, syrup and coffee.

“Those shelves are almost totally depleted. We are hoping with the upcoming collections we will start filling them up,” Fenton said.

This year the food bank is receiving less funding from the Connecticut Food Bank and is desperately in need of turkey donations for Thanksgiving, Fenton added.

In Beacon Falls, St. Michael’s Church, 25 Maple Ave., runs a food pantry. A message left with the church seeking comment on the status of its food bank wasn’t returned as of press time. For information, contact the church at 203-729-2504.

Regardless of how many people are in need, Fenton said, the Naugatuck food bank will continue to try and help everyone.

“We are doing our best,” Fenton said. “We are working to get food in and keep the shelves stocked with food. If somebody is in need we do whatever we can to help.”