The Westborough Food Pantry’s tradition of providing Christmas dinners to Westborough families in need continues next week.
Donations support the dinners, food pantry Director Phil Kittredge notes: Westborough firefighters buy fresh tomatoes, onions, squash, carrots, celery and the like, supplemented by items from the food pantry. Roche Bros. donates $15 ham vouchers. And the food pantry gives each family a $25 gift card.
Yet this year, food pantry volunteers have been grocery shopping more to meet their changing clientele: larger families; homeless families, which is new; and about a 20 percent increase in seniors, Kittredge says. The food pantry serves only Westborough residents.
The volunteers also must offset a decline in food drive donations.
“We’ve noticed all our drives have been between 20 and 40 percent less from last year,” says Kittredge, who is in his third year as director.
“I’ve got to think there’s been so many different requests for people to give. Everybody has a certain amount of money that they can donate. Maybe two years ago, there were five things that they donated and they gave $100 to each one. Well, now there’s 10. So, they’re giving each one $50.
“We’re very fortunate that the community is tremendously supportive of the food pantry.
“What it’s meant to us is we’ve had to purchase food on a regular basis, more food. Every week we purchase between 60 and 90 dozen eggs, we buy usually between 70 and 80 loaves of bread every week. We purchase approximately 110 packages of chicken, and 80 to 90 packages of hamburger every week. We buy that every single week.
“So, what we’ve had to do over the last probably two months, we’ve had to supplement that by buying everything from cereals to juices to soups. One of the things we try to encourage is we buy cake mixes and brownie mixes. Because we can supply the eggs. So if we give you a cake mix or a brownie mix, then you can go home and make a whole big huge thing of brownies. A package of cookies would be gone in a night, where the brownies might last two or three days.”
Civic groups support the food pantry, at 9 East Main St., well, such as the “Bagel Bistro, with his great big huge gingerbread house that they’re raffling off, with all the proceeds going to the food pantry,” Kittredge says.
“There’s where we get our operating funds,” he says.
“This time of the year, everybody donates. It’s great. Come May, we will get maybe half a dozen bags of food a week. “
The food pantry has just over 100 families registered, which is “down some from last year at this time,” he says.
“But, we’re serving larger families,” he notes.
“We’re seeing probably over the last two or three months a majority of the families we’ve been registering are families with two or three or four children,” Kittredge says.
“Some people are losing their jobs. Some are people that are losing their benefits. The state has moved a lot of homeless people out of the shelters into various motels throughout the state. We have them at the Extended Stay.”
Kittredge says 25 percent of the food pantry’s clientele is over age 65. A
Westborough has “one of the few food pantries that are open on a special day, just for seniors”: every Tuesday, he says. The food pantry is open Thursday morning and night for all other clients.
“Last Thursday, we fed 40 families in the morning. So, you can imagine 40 people in here, some with their children in tow. You can imagine how hectic it was,” Kittredge says.
“This year, our seniors probably have jumped 20 percent. We’re hoping it’s better awareness. The council on aging, and the senior center, and Alma (Demanche, the director), they do a tremendous service in educating the seniors about all of the benefits that are available in town.”
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