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Needy residents discovering adult center's food pantry

Date: 9/13/2010

Sept. 13, 2010

By Debbie Gardner

Assistant Managing Editor

LONGMEADOW -- Nearly a year into operation, the food pantry at the Longmeadow Adult Center has seen a slow, but steady, increase in use.

"The pantry has served 67 individuals this past year," Center Director Karen Nieman Michelman said. "It was mostly not seniors. We served a lot of families."

The food pantry officially opened to residents on Oct. 6, 2009.

However, she said, not everyone who might benefit from this service is aware the pantry exists.

"We have people come in all the time and say 'I didn't know you had this.' We're still working on getting the word out," Michelman said.

She stressed the pantry, which is open on Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to noon at the Adult Center at 231 Maple Rd., is available "to anyone in Longmeadow," irrespective of age or financial status.

"I think it's very difficult for people to come in for a variety of reasons," she said. "It's very private. People should not feel uncomfortable or that they will stand out."

As part of the center's outreach, Michelman said she's working with the schools to have them send home information about the food pantry with students who receive free or reduced price lunches.

She also includes information about the food pantry when she's helping individuals apply for fuel assistance.

"We had a young woman come in for fuel assistance and I mentioned the pantry and she said, 'I don't need that,'" Michelman said. "I said, 'If it will help you, save a few dollars here.' We encourage people who think they can get by to use it."

If an individual can't come in during pantry hours, Michelman said the center "can arrange another time, but we do need to have them call ahead." She also said the center can arrange to deliver items to individuals if necessary.

She said though the pantry has been able to keep itself stocked with assistance from Rachel's Table and purchases through the Western Massachusetts Food Bank, it is always looking for donations, especially paper goods, toothpaste, dish detergent, coffee, non-perishable canned goods and juices. Items can be dropped off in a box at the entrance of the center daily between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.

"[Items] cannot be expired," Michelman said. "Check the expiration dates and if it is [past date], please throw it out. "

If an individual or group would like to organize a drive to support the food pantry, she said they should contact Ellen Gold a the Longmeadow Adult Center at 565-4150.

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