EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

New Hampshire

October 10, 2011

Southern NH food pantries struggle to meet growing need

The Thomas Aquinas Food Pantry in Derry can barely keep up with the demand for food.

"We're constantly in need of donations," outreach director Pam LaMontagne said. "We could have a huge food drive and that will last a week. The food goes off the shelf just as fast as we can put it on."

That's the case at many local food pantries, where the burden hasn't eased this fall. Over the summer, LaMontagne said, they were serving 15 to 20 people a day. This month, they've been serving about 25 people a day.

"We're very, very busy," she said. "We're seeing people who have never before had to use services come to us. People are losing their jobs and just can't keep up with the bills, with the increased cost of living."

There is an increased need for food statewide. Sara Beaudry, development director of the New Hampshire Food Bank, said food distribution is up 15 percent from this time last year.

"The demand for food is higher," she said. "Things are tight. We're always trying to bring in more food and looking for donations."

In 2010, from Jan. 1 to Sept. 30, the food bank gave out 4.6 million pounds of food. In the same time period this year, they've given out 5.3 million pounds. Local food banks often rely on the state food bank to fill the gaps, but Beaudry said they're struggling to meet the need.

The NH Food Bank has gotten creative in finding new ways to get food donations. New Hampshire hunters can share their fall game harvest with the needy through the "Hunt for the Hungry" program. The food bank is collecting donations of whole or processed game animals to help feed the hungry.

St. Anne's Ecumenical Food Pantry in Hampstead is taking any food donation to keep up with a 15 percent increase in demand.

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