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Food Pantry fighing endless battle to feed needy

Date: 3/24/2009

By Katelyn Gendron

Reminder Assistant Editor

WESTFIELD -- The Westfield Emergency Food Pantry is a revolving door -- food in and food out -- with no end in sight and as more people circle, there's less food to go around.

Gloria Stone, coordinator of the Westfield Emergency Food Pantry, told Reminder Publications, that the number of families seeking assistance has risen over 30 percent and the shelves will be empty by mid-April.

"This is one of our most trying years because I'm getting people [coming in for food that] I haven't seen in years," she said, adding that the largest influx in requests is from senior citizens.

"Even though my supplies are good now, they won't last until May [when the donations come in from the National Association of Letter Carriers' 17th Annual Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive]," Stone explained.

Gary Wolfe, treasurer of the Westfield Emergency Food Pantry's Board of Directors, noted that several local businesses such as Jen-Coat Inc. have stepped in to help with operations and expenses. He explained that additional help is needed because of the increasing demand for food and rising operating expenses.

"We are 100 percent a non-profit but there is cost of rent, our one person [staff composed of Stone] and liability insurance," Wolfe said, adding that the organization operates on an annual $25,000 budget.

He noted that the organization can purchase goods from the Western Massachusetts Food Bank for 19 cents per pound; however, each pantry is only allowed a certain amount of food per quarter, therefore increasing the need for private donations.

Don Wielgus, member of the Westfield Emergency Food Pantry's Board of Directors, explained that the influx in demand prompted the need for a new form of tracking donations and distributions. He said Jen-Coat Inc. provided a computer and data-entry software to help the pantry stay up to date with the increasing demand.

Stone explained that families receive two bags of groceries per month, which include "staple" items such as cereal, peanut butter, jelly, pasta, sauce, vegetables, meat and eggs. She added that she will accept perishable and non-perishable foods.

The Westfield Emergency Food Pantry, 101 Meadow St., is open on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 10 a.m. to noon and on Thursdays from 5:30 to 7 p.m.

Monetary donations can be mailed to the Westfield Emergency Food Pantry, 101 Meadow St., Westfield, MA 01085.

For additional information, call the pantry at 572-0802.