Food banks in need as holidays approach

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Naugatuck High School students Vinny DeCastro, 18, left, and Derek Ritter, 19, help pack grocery bags at the Naugatuck Ecumenical Food Bank on Nov. 8. The food bank is seeking donations as the holidays approach and the numbers of those who need the service has grown. –LUKE MARSHALL
Naugatuck High School students Vinny DeCastro, 18, left, and Derek Ritter, 19, help pack grocery bags at the Naugatuck Ecumenical Food Bank on Nov. 8. The food bank is seeking donations as the holidays approach and the numbers of those who need the service has grown. –LUKE MARSHALL

Local food banks are still feeling the pressure of the continuing economic crisis.

“Until the Boy Scout’s collection drive on Saturday, [Nov. 2] our shelves were quite bare, unless you wanted a package of pigs’ feet,” Naugatuck Ecumenical Food Bank President Marty Lee Fenton said.

The Naugatuck Ecumenical Food Bank, located at 75 Spring St. in Naugatuck, serves residents from both Naugatuck and Beacon Falls.

Fenton said the Boy Scouts collected over 800 bags of food from borough residents during the annual food drive.

“We are very thankful and very appreciative,” Fenton said of the donations.

However, the food bank is still struggling to meet the needs of those who use its service.

Fenton said along with a shortage of food donations, there is an increase in the number of people who need help.

“If we used to have 45 families, that was a lot. Now we have been having 50 or 60. We’ve had 72 families in the two-hour time frame we are open,” Fenton said.

Fenton said that the food bank, which is open Tuesdays from 2 to 4 p.m. and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., often has lines that stretch out the door.

“As of September we have had many, many more new families than we had at this time last year,” Fenton said.

Fenton feels that part of the increase comes from the cuts that were made earlier this year to government assistance programs people relied on, such as food stamps.

“We’re giving out a lot more to a lot more people,” Fenton said.

Fenton said it is not just that more people are showing up to the food bank, but that people are utilizing it more often. Fenton explained because of how many people need the food bank families are only able to visit the food bank two times a month.

“Some people are running out of food and they’ll come and it’s the third time. We have to stick to our rules, but we try to give them something to help them,” Fenton said.

Fenton said that the food bank will be there to help people in need, even the ones who never thought they would need to use it.

“It’s not poor people that need it; it’s people who all of a sudden find themselves in a bad situation that wasn’t planned. Do you pay the rent, do you buy food? That’s why we are there to help,” Fenton said.

In Prospect the town’s food bank is not faring any better.

“It’s way down,” Prospect Mayor Robert Chatfield said of the donations to the food bank.

Chatfield was concerned about how many people may need to use the food bank this year.

“I’m sure there’s going to be more demand,” Chatfield said.

In addition to collecting for the food bank, Chatfield is also collecting donations for the toy fund for the Christmas season and the fuel bank.

“We’d be deeply appreciative if someone can find the funds to donate,” Chatfield said.

Chatfield said that anyone wishing to send in donations can send a check to the Town Hall, 36 Center St., Prospect, CT 06712. Checks can be made out to either the food bank, the toy fund or the fuel bank.

Louise Heeman, who runs the food bank at St. Michael’s Church in Beacon Falls, said the food bank recently received a large number of donations.

“We just received 300 bags of food from the residents of Beacon Falls, collected by Cub Scout Pack 2010,” Heeman said. “We also had a collection given to us from the Beacon Falls Rotary Club at the election.”

Heeman said the need at the food bank has remained steady since she took over six months ago, with more than 30 families utilizing the service.

However, the food bank also saw an increase in donations over last year, Heeman said.

“We had a lot of food that was donated this year. I was really appreciative,” Heeman said.

Naugatuck High School Student Devon Spears, 18, helps stock shelves at the Naugatuck Ecumenical Food Bank Nov. 8. The food bank is seeking donations as the holidays approach and the numbers of those who need the service has grown. –LUKE MARSHALL
Naugatuck High School Student Devon Spears, 18, helps stock shelves at the Naugatuck Ecumenical Food Bank Nov. 8. The food bank is seeking donations as the holidays approach and the numbers of those who need the service has grown. –LUKE MARSHALL

Heeman said anyone who wants to donate can contact the church at (203) 729-2504. If it is a small donation it can be left at the lyceum during the hours the church is open, Heeman said.

Fenton said the next project the food bank has to work on is baskets for Thanksgiving. Fenton said the food bank is planning on putting together more than 225 baskets for Thanksgiving on Nov. 24.

“We are hoping to be able to take care of everybody as best as possible. Hopefully we have enough turkeys for everybody,” Fenton said.

Fenton said that anyone who wishes to make a donation can send checks to Naugatuck Ecumenical Food Bank, P.O. Box 796, Naugatuck, CT 06770. Checks can be made out to Ecumenical Food Bank.

If people would like to donate food they can drop it off during the food bank’s hours of operation or call the food bank at (203) 723-1922 and leave a message to set up a time.

Although it is a struggle at times, Fenton said she is always pleased with how many people reach out to donate food, money or time to the food bank.

“People in this community are very generous,” Fenton said.