NAUGATUCK — Following a statewide trend, the Ecumenical Food Bank saw demand for its services increase in 2009, as it fed more than 10,000 people and provided almost 100,000 meals, a roughly 20 percent increase over 2008.
The bank, which serves Naugatuck and Beacon Falls residents, fed 2,342 families last year, 227 of which had never before required assistance. The number of new families was up from 209 in 2008.
Before Thanksgiving, the EFB distributed 255 holiday baskets, an all-time high, which included Thanksgiving turkeys, Christmas hams, various side dishes and additional meals for between the holidays.
“When people come to us for food, it doesn’t mean they’re poor,” EFB President Marty-Lee Fenton told Citizen’s News in November. She is out-of-town until next month. “Sometimes it’s because of sickness or they lost their job. No one plans for these things.”
The Connecticut Food Bank released its own 2009 figures last Friday. It distributed a record 18.7 million ponds of food, up 16.6 percent from 2008, and fed an estimated 300,000 people.
“This is a bittersweet milestone for us,” Connecticut Food Bank CEO Nancy Carrington said in a written statement. “We are thankful for having the ability to provide more food to feed more people, and we are fortunate to have tens of thousands of partners in the community willing to assist in making that happen. But we wish we didn’t have to. Every day, we at Connecticut Food Bank work with the hope that one day our services will no longer be needed because hunger won’t be an issue. It’s extremely sobering to know that there are still so many people in need in our communities.”
The CFB also noted that its 650 affiliated food assistance programs reported increased service demands averaging 30 percent.
The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) bolstered the state’s food supply, according the Connecticut Food Bank. It reported receiving 7.06 million pounds of food from the federal government, significantly more than the 4.18 million pounds it got in 2008.
The increase in federal food helped offset a decrease in private donations, which dipped from 9.41 million pounds statewide to 8.72 million. That meant the Connecticut Food Bank had to purchase about 12 percent more food last year than it did the year before.
Locally, the current rate of donations is about half what it was in November and December, during the holiday season, according to Nancy Goudreau of the Ecumenical Food Bank. Every Tuesday, EFB volunteers pick up approximately 1,000 pounds of surplus food from the Waterbury Food Bank, a practice that is helping to keep shelves at 75 Spring Street stocked.
The Ecumenical Food Bank, open Tuesdays, 2-4 p.m., and Fridays, 10 a.m.-noon, offers three-day emergency supplies of food to each member of the families it serves. Families are eligible to receive emergency supplies twice per month.