Food Pantries Feel Economic Strain, but Prepare to Provide Thanksgiving Meals

Managers of food banks and pantries across the region say a sluggish economic recovery and high unemployment has led to a greater need for food combined with fewer donations. But food pantries are still prepared to serve Thanksgiving dinner to hundreds of families this week.

At the Springfield Rescue Mission, some former donors to the food pantry are finding themselves on the receiving end this holiday season.

“We have people calling us and saying, ‘I know I’ve been a faithful giver for years, but I just can’t afford to do it anymore, and we completely understand,sometimes we even reach out to those people and offer them a Thanksgiving meal.”

That’s Julie Barnes, the mission’s community development assistant. She says despite a reduction in financial contributions this year, the mission has received enough in-kind food donations to serve 500 guests at its dining hall, and to deliver meals to 100 homes on Thanksgiving.

Springfield Rescue Mission doesn’t receive government funding. But other food pantries like the Enfield Food Shelf in Connecticut, which relies on regional food banks for 75% of its supply, are impacted by government cuts. Linda Bridge, executive director of the Enfield Food Shelf, says food banks have seen their federal support cut in half this year, which means she’s had to cut back on how much food she can distribute to families.

“Unfortunately, what I’ve had to do is I have to alternate, one week we’ll give out mac ‘n cheese, and the next week we’ll give out canned pasta.”

However, Bridge says Enfield food shelf has seen a surge in donations in the past several weeks, which she expects will continue through the holiday season before leveling off in January.