Photo: Vicki Thomas
It was a sunny beautiful day for the annual food drive organized by the Weston Kiwanis outside of Peter’s Market on Saturday.
Steve Thomas, president of the Weston Kiwanis estimates that about 250 to 300 pounds of cans and boxes were donated to the Food Pantry by generous Westonites. Several Westonites did their weekly grocery shopping and dropped boxes and bags of food in the Food Pantry bins.
Anne Bigin, Director of the Weston Food Pantry was on hand to take the filled bags of donated food back to the food pantry to restock the shelves. Anne said, “It takes about 220 bags of food and household products donated a month to ensure each family can walk away with one bag of groceries each week. Not every family or household that qualifies for Social Services uses the Weston Food Pantry.”
All families and individuals needing food from the food pantry are screened by Town of Weston Social Services that meet the limited income qualifications.
The Weston Food Pantry is not part of the town social services. It is a separate 501(c)(3) public charity. It is totally dependent on grocery donations and financial contributions from neighbors, clubs, schools, and companies. It is run by volunteers.
Once approved the qualifying individuals receives a swipe card to access the Food Pantry located at 52 Norfield Road in the little white building behind the Fire station. Approved families and individuals have access to the pantry seven days a week between the hours of 6:00 AM to 11:00 PM.
“It is all on the honor system. I know each week based on the swipe card number if the individual has used it for the week. I do not know the name of the individuals, only the card number,” said Anne. “Our goal is to build trust with the individual or family in need. The pantry only works because of the Weston neighbors that support it,” said Anne.
Anne indicated a real need for ‘luxury items’ that are not on the SNAP list of food items. Those items include toilet paper, paper towels, toothpaste, deodorant, soap, shampoo and laundry detergent.
SNAP is the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance program. Nonfood items such as pet foods are ineligible for purchase with SNAP. “Pets are an important part of the family. I know when there is no cat food on the shelf in the food pantry individuals will choose tuna to feed their cats,” said Anne. Small bags of dog food and cat food bags and cans are always welcomed.
Anne indicated that she welcomes financial donations because she then can shop for items at Costco. She said she is a most frugal shopper getting as much as she can from donated dollars to stock the shelves at the food pantry.
In Connecticut 440,000 people are classified as food insecure, which is 2.2% of the state’s population. In Fairfield County it is estimated there are 100,000 people that face hunger each week. In Weston seventy families qualify to use the pantry.
It seems unimaginable that there are families living in Weston struggling with food insecurities.
It can happen to anyone if the main bread winner loses a job, has serious health issues when income is greatly reduced. Divorce leaving many single moms raising children on their own struggle to get back on their feet financially. Senior citizens after a lifetime of hard work can often times face an impossible choice to pay for groceries or medical care.
Individuals do no remain dependent forever on the food pantry. Many are able to find a job or multiple jobs that will enable them to pay for groceries and barely meet their other financial responsibilities.
According to Anne several who have used the food pantry that were able to get back on their financial footing end up giving back by either volunteering or by providing needed grocery items to stock the Weston Food Pantry shelves.
There are many organizations that help keep the shelves stocked at the Weston Food Pantry including St. Francis, Norfield Church, Emmanuel Church, the girl and boy scouts, the Grange, Peter’s Market, Weston High School, Weston Middle School, Hurlbut, Camelot, Pepperidge Farm, Weston Kiwanis Club, and neighbors.
This demonstrates what a caring community Weston is proving great things happen when heart come together.
As Thanksgiving is upon us and we enter the giving season – donate to the Weston Food Pantry or provide needed items so shelves can always be stocked. For information on what items to put in a bag to take to the food pantry or to donate money – call Anne Bigin – 917-751-2802.
Left: a shopper donates. Right: Anne Bigin of the Weston Food Pantry.