BELLOWS FALLS, Vt. – Chroma Technology of Bellows Falls led a successful food drive that added almost a thousand pounds of food to the shelves of Our Place Drop-In Center and $3,000 to their coffers.
“We are so grateful for everyone at Chroma who made this happen,” said Our Place director Lisa Pitcher as she surveyed the boxes and cans that were being weighed as they were unloaded recently by Chroma personnel Rick Holloway, Ellen Lawrence, Jessica Ratner, and Dale Kondracki.
Also collaborating in the collection with the employee-owned company was JaniTech Cleaning Services.
The center’s annual Overflow the Opera House food collection event had been canceled due to the pandemic, so the center held a drive-by collection at its location at 4 Island St. Donations were weighed outside before they were shunted inside through a window.
“In these unusual times, families need our food pantry more than ever,” said OP director Lisa Pitcher. “We have seen an increase in the number of meals we prepare go from 600-plus in June and July to 842 in August and 994 in September. In September, we served twice as many households in the food pantry program as we did the month before, going from 52 households to 109, representing 328 people, plus we made 34 home deliveries to seniors. And about 30% of those accessing the food shelf have had to come in more than once in a month to meet their families’ needs,” she added.
Pitcher theorizes the increase is due to a few factors, including the reduction in Farmers to Families distributions, families having used up their extra pandemic 3SquaresVT food benefits, and reductions in unemployment benefits.
As a frame of reference, she cites 137 households served in January through March before the pandemic really hit and the number falling to 87 in May and 48 in June as the stimulus and other benefits kicked in.
Currently, Our Place is not open, but breakfasts and lunches can be accessed through a window and food boxes can be picked up at the door. Home deliveries of boxes of food are made to 34 seniors.
She applauded the work of Amanda Reed and Kim Wallace for keeping the center on task and meeting the community’s needs.
“We’re not sure what we’re going to do this winter,” Pitcher said. “But the need is definitely there.”
Our Place is helping coordinate the Everyone Eats program with the Chester Helping Hands, Springfield Family Center, SEVCA, and the Rockingham Help and Helpers, in which meals are prepared by local restaurants and picked up for distribution on Wednesdays and Fridays at Our Place and Parks Place.
Our Place is also collaborating with the Windham Regional Hunger Council and the Vermont Foodbank for holiday food distribution.
Our Place is a daytime shelter that offers help with food and other essential needs in a nonjudgmental, safe, and respectful atmosphere. Further information is available on Facebook or by calling 802-463-2217 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.