Close your eyes. When you picture a family who depends on a food pantry, who do you see? Do you see a person in any demographic? Do you see young and old people alike, families with two parents, couples, singles or any other person? Hunger does not start with a number. It does not start with a race, age or even income. At Our Community Food Pantry, the important thing is the need of the people.
Within a community like this, there are many different people who depend on the food pantry as a source of their food. There are times when a person will come to us because a member of their family has fallen ill. They may be facing the dilemma of paying medical bills or buying food. Senior citizens make up 11% of our clients. While our town offers other services for seniors, for many it is still not enough for them to get by. Our basic offerings of tuna, pasta, sauce, soup, veggies and fruit are all too often essentials in making sure they are fed. In some cases, we serve many generations of a family. When hard times fall on one person, it can affect many households. We are here to help each of them.
As you can see, there are many different reasons why a person might have to rely on our food pantry. This year we have seen many families displaced due to storm damage. They may be low on cash and only need our food assistance for a week or so. The majority of our clients have visited less than 10 times this year. Eight percent of our clients are recent high school graduates. Sometimes those individuals are faced with having difficulty getting a job; they come for assistance so they may spend their resources to pay bills and taxes. In today’s economy, many people are faced with the costs associated with fluctuating interest rates. Rising mortgage costs can dip into a budget for food, sending families into need.
The vast majority of the people who seek our aid have a household income that falls below $25,000. 49% of these families live off less than $10,000 per year. While these numbers paint a picture, our mission to help people is not about a threshold. People who are in need will always find an open door and friendly face. Individuals with nowhere to go can come to 220 College Highway and find a place filled with compassion. Our job is not to ask questions and expect answers, it’s to provide a gateway to help and hope.
September is Hunger Awareness month in our community. We are looking for donations of both food and money. Something as little as $1 can go a long way in helping your neighbors in need. Today you may need the assistance; tomorrow you may be able to give back.
Erica LeFebvre, National Honor Society, Southwick Tolland Regional High School
Julie Cecchini, Board Member, Our Community Food Pantry