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Lean months prompt need for donations at Loudon Food Pantry

  • Pam Matott, a volunteer at the Loudon Food Pantry, sorts through some recent donations at the pantry on Monday morning, March 3, 2014. The pantry had a tough couple of winter months and are participating in a challenge grant. The challenge runs from the beginning of March to the end of April. The nonprofit serves five communities and provides 80 to 100 meals every week.<br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Pam Matott, a volunteer at the Loudon Food Pantry, sorts through some recent donations at the pantry on Monday morning, March 3, 2014. The pantry had a tough couple of winter months and are participating in a challenge grant. The challenge runs from the beginning of March to the end of April. The nonprofit serves five communities and provides 80 to 100 meals every week.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Shirley Warren, of Canterbury, left, chats with Susan Houck after picking up some food at the Loudon Food Pantry on Monday morning, March 3, 2014. The pantry had a tough couple of winter months and are participating in a challenge grant. The challenge runs from the beginning of March to the end of April. The nonprofit serves five communities and provides 80 to 100 meals every week.<br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Shirley Warren, of Canterbury, left, chats with Susan Houck after picking up some food at the Loudon Food Pantry on Monday morning, March 3, 2014. The pantry had a tough couple of winter months and are participating in a challenge grant. The challenge runs from the beginning of March to the end of April. The nonprofit serves five communities and provides 80 to 100 meals every week.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Glenda Yeaton, a volunteer who's donated time for five years at the Loudon Food Pantry, sorts through some recent donations at the pantry on Monday morning, March 3, 2014. The pantry had a tough couple of winter months and are participating in a challenge grant. The challenge runs from the beginning of March to the end of April. The nonprofit serves five communities and provides 80 to 100 meals every week (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Glenda Yeaton, a volunteer who's donated time for five years at the Loudon Food Pantry, sorts through some recent donations at the pantry on Monday morning, March 3, 2014. The pantry had a tough couple of winter months and are participating in a challenge grant. The challenge runs from the beginning of March to the end of April. The nonprofit serves five communities and provides 80 to 100 meals every week (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Pam Matott, a volunteer at the Loudon Food Pantry, right, sorts through some recent donations at the pantry on Monday morning, March 3, 2014. The pantry had a tough couple of winter months and are participating in a challenge grant. The challenge runs from the beginning of March to the end of April.The nonprofit serves five communities and provides 80 to 100 meals every week <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Pam Matott, a volunteer at the Loudon Food Pantry, right, sorts through some recent donations at the pantry on Monday morning, March 3, 2014. The pantry had a tough couple of winter months and are participating in a challenge grant. The challenge runs from the beginning of March to the end of April.The nonprofit serves five communities and provides 80 to 100 meals every week

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Pam Matott, a volunteer at the Loudon Food Pantry, sorts through some recent donations at the pantry on Monday morning, March 3, 2014. The pantry had a tough couple of winter months and are participating in a challenge grant. The challenge runs from the beginning of March to the end of April. The nonprofit serves five communities and provides 80 to 100 meals every week.<br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Shirley Warren, of Canterbury, left, chats with Susan Houck after picking up some food at the Loudon Food Pantry on Monday morning, March 3, 2014. The pantry had a tough couple of winter months and are participating in a challenge grant. The challenge runs from the beginning of March to the end of April. The nonprofit serves five communities and provides 80 to 100 meals every week.<br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Glenda Yeaton, a volunteer who's donated time for five years at the Loudon Food Pantry, sorts through some recent donations at the pantry on Monday morning, March 3, 2014. The pantry had a tough couple of winter months and are participating in a challenge grant. The challenge runs from the beginning of March to the end of April. The nonprofit serves five communities and provides 80 to 100 meals every week (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Pam Matott, a volunteer at the Loudon Food Pantry, right, sorts through some recent donations at the pantry on Monday morning, March 3, 2014. The pantry had a tough couple of winter months and are participating in a challenge grant. The challenge runs from the beginning of March to the end of April.The nonprofit serves five communities and provides 80 to 100 meals every week <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

Monday through Thursday, every 15 minutes, a patron arrives for their appointment at the Loudon Food Pantry.

At 11 a.m. yesterday, Shirley Warren of Canterbury made her weekly trip to Chichester Road for assistance. She left with the typical haul for a single person at the pantry: about three days’ worth of meals.

One in nine New Hampshire residents – including 40,400 people under the age of 18 – do not have consistent access to adequate food supply due to a lack of money and other resources, according to the New Hampshire Food Bank. The food bank and its network of more than 400 partner agencies in the state are experiencing unprecedented demand for food services, resulting in more than 140,000 people in New Hampshire turning to emergency sources like pantries and soup kitchens for food.

Statewide, the food bank provided 8.5 million pounds of food to more than 400 partner agencies in 2013. Between 40 and 45 percent of the food distributed by local pantries comes from the food bank, which receives no state or federal funding and relies heavily on grants, fundraising and partnerships with grocery stores. “We really do rely on the community,” said Mel Gosselin, executive director of the New Hampshire Food Bank in Manchester.

The food bank has been working to replace the loss of about one million pounds of food lost when Shaw’s closed New Hampshire locations last year. Meat and protein donations dipped significantly as a result of the closures, said Gosselin.

Warren’s household is one of between 80 and 100 that receives food from the Loudon pantry. As she finished her assisted shopping, she said the free food is important to her because she lives alone on a fixed income. “Oh yes, it helps tremendously. I don’t get much money now. I just get Social Security and that doesn’t go very far. Of course, I have bills to pay, too,” said Warren, who has received assistance for four years since moving from Franklin.

Warren receives basic food items, including bread, a starch, a fruit, a vegetable, a snack and a few canned goods.

The work to ensure each person gets what they need is particularly difficult between January and April, said director Susan Houck. “We try to tell people hunger is year round. It’s not just Christmas and Thanksgiving,” she said.

Houck is the only full-time paid employee at the nonprofit, which serves people in Loudon, Canterbury, Belmont, Chichester and Epsom.

During a good calendar year, money and food donations will total $30,000 and $80,000, respectively. The value of the food items is based on the market price, said Houck. The majority of donations arrive between October and Christmas, and the annual spike in donations during the holidays is used to try to carry the pantry through the winter. This year has followed a familiar pattern. “The first few months have been pretty dismal,” said Sarah Houck, Susan Houck’s daughter and a volunteer at the pantry.

Pantry shelves are stocked with food provided by individuals, businesses, the Concord Regional Food Program, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the New Hampshire Food Bank. In Loudon, a small group of dedicated volunteers sort, label and stock food and set appointments for visitors. The pantry served more than 70,000 meals in 2013, and has provided 10,000 meals so far in 2014. In 2009, its first full year of operation, the pantry served about 6,200 meals.

Half of the more than 3,000 households that used the pantry last year are in Loudon.

“In February of this year we’ve gotten next to nothing, maybe $350 in donations, and not much food,” Susan Houck said. “But we think people are waiting until March and April to donate.”

To bolster winter donations since 2010, the pantry has participated in a two-month challenge grant program through Rhode Island-based philanthropist Alan Shawn Feinstein. This is the 17th year Feinstein will divide $1 million among participating hunger agencies like the Loudon pantry in order to inspire the public to donate during the months when funds and food are low. The challenge begins March 1 and continues through April. Each food item donated to the Feinstein challenge is valued at $1. Last year, the pantry brought in $5,200 in cash donations and $863 in food collections. In 2012, the challenge brought in $4,488 in cash and $1,339 in food donations.

This year, the goal is to raise $6,500 in total food and money donations. In August, the Loudon pantry will receive its cut of the $1 million, a payout that is usually about $250. The main thrust of the challenge is simply to raise awareness about the importance of donating, said Houck. “Our normal donations would still come in, but it’s nowhere near that,” Susan Houck said of donations received during the Feinstein challenge.

Donations can be dropped off or mailed to the pantry at 30 Chichester Road, Unit D, Loudon. More information is at www.loudonfoodpantry.org.

Yesterday, the food bank launched the second year of its “Nothing” campaign. For $5, shoppers can buy cans of “nothing” at supermarkets across the state. They then can fill the cans with food and return them, providing meals for people in need. The Cans will remain in the stores through April 11 and Citizens Bank will match up to $25,000 in donations raised during the program. “It really is an awareness piece,” Gosselin said. “It really had a great presence in the state last year. It was so unique it created a buzz.” For more information visit www.nothing.org/nh.

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