By Lindsay Carey
September is Hunger Action Month and Southington Community Services is seeking donations.
“You know, everyone’s giving in December and that’s wonderful, but we need the whole year round because the summer’s the toughest time,” said Dave Harrington from Southington Community Services.
Mark Fazzolari, who also works for the Southington Community Services, said that the summer months tend to be more difficult because children out are out of school.
Some parents rely on the breakfast and lunch programs at school, but during the summer they face difficulties because the children are home all day.
“Families we normally see come in twice a year are coming in every week during the summer,” said Fazzolari.
According to Harrington, the non-profit organization serves 50 to 80 families per day and close to 250 families a week.
In May of 2013, the Southington Community Serves Food Pantry served 32,686 meals and served 429 unduplicated families.
“The people that come are not just people that are low income,” said Harrington. “There’s middle income that are down on their luck, because of the 2008 bubble. It didn’t really affect the poor people, because we were already there and it didn’t affect the rich.”
Harrington said between 2008 and 2010, community services had an influx of people in that middle class that are not collecting unemployment and have rent to pay.
When Janet Mellon first took over the Southington Community Services it was located in the basement of the Gura Building. According to Fazzolari, having to go to the center of town to pick up the groceries made some people apprehensive.
Now that it is located on the outskirts of town, Fazzolari said more people come because they are less concerned about being seen.
Although the food pantry is supposed to be supplemental, a lot of families use it as their major source of grocery for the week.
“We try to accommodate all of our customers,” said Harrington.
A family that goes to the pantry will walk out with three to four grocery bags, filled with food like meat, cheese, fruit, bread, pasta, cereal, baby food, toiletries and much more.
Some people who are in need do not qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
“If you make more than $1,700 a month, you can’t get food stamps and it’s going to go down to $1,400 a month,” said Harrington. “So if you work full time at minimum wage, you are almost not eligible for food stamps. That’s insane.”
SNAP recently cut its budget and is expected to cut it again in the near future. With assistance from SNAP, a person’s food budget is $4.15 per day.
Southington Community Services uses Food Share to provide food for those in need. Food Share defines 1.3 pounds as a meal per person, and Southington Community Services tries to provide even more than that.
“What people have to understand is that when you donate money to the food pantry we do a lot more with it, because we pay 17 cents a pound for food share,” said Harrington. In addition to the affordable prices of food, Food Share matches any funds raised and donations that go to the non-profit organization.
Community Services also receives food for free from The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP).
The food pantry also buys certain items at wholesale, which is cheaper than it is for most people. However, with limited funding, the group cannot buy items at wholesale very often.
“Sometimes we need it, because we need cereal and that’s never free,” said Harrington. “We have an anonymous donor who donates to local grocery store $1,000 per month for bags, for cereal, peanut butter and jelly, and tuna fish because its hard to come by be and costs so much.”
There is also an “Adopt a Shelf” program where a family can support a shelf at the food pantry and make sure it remains filled. Contact Southington Community Services in Plantsville at 860-628-3761 to find ways to help.