Grocery stores also donate surplus products to food banks. But Mellitt said it has declined in recent years.
“They are not as generous as they used to be because they are better at inventory control,” she said.
That’s a problem for Mellitt.
“We are continually looking for new donors,” she said. “We’ve had to purchase about 45 percent of food we distribute.”
Pam Lamontagne is experiencing similar struggles at St. Thomas Aquinas Food Pantry in Derry.
“August and September are generally our worst months,” she said. “When the kids were home from school, we often had to give away extra meals, which is affecting our supply now.”
Lamontagne said they get donations from a number of places, including a box at Shaw’s in Derry. But there are specific needs she’s looking for.
“Protein is the biggest thing,” she said. “We’re looking for things like soups, tuna, and canned chicken. The other big thing is personal products like shampoo and soap.”
But not all food pantries are in dire need. The Rev. Tom Gerdts of Rockingham Christian Church in Salem said that food pantry is in decent shape.
“We can always use assistance, but it’s not a panicky need,” Gerdts said.
He said they haven’t needed to put a box in local grocery stores because of sufficient donations from his congregation and because they have had access to the New Hampshire Food Bank.
“We’ve worked hard to keep a standard of excellence,” he said. “We keep a cash balance to supplement what we already get for donations.”
Even the food pantries which are struggling, they are confident it will turn around soon.
“Our best season is around the holidays,” Steen said. “Everyone is in a giving mood.”
Some local pantries Derry: First Baptist Church Food Pantry, 44 East Broadway, open Tuesdays from 3:30 to 5 p.m. and Thursdays from 9:30 a.m. to noon. Requesting peanut butter, tuna, canned chicken, pasta, rice, instant potatoes. St. Thomas Aquinas Food Pantry, 28 Crystal Ave., open Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 1 to 3:30 p.m. Requesting soup, tuna, canned chicken, protein, shampoo, soap. Hampstead: St. Anne's Ecumenical Pantry, 22 Emerson Ave. , open Thursdays from 10 a.m. to noon. Requesting canned vegetables, canned soup, macaroni and cheese, cereal, pasta sauce, toiletries, peanut butter, tuna. Salem: Rockingham Christian Church Pantry, 5 Industrial Drive, open first and third Tuesday of the month from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Requesting canned goods, cereal, rice.