EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

New Hampshire

October 24, 2008

NH food pantries report increase in those seeking help

Job loss, housing woes often cited as reasons

It was standing room only when 20 families turned out at Holy Angels Food Pantry Wednesday morning in Plaistow.

"It was rather hectic, having so many people, including some mothers who brought their young children with them," said Marie Farren, one of the pantry coordinators.

Some people were waiting in line before the doors opened.

At the current pace, the pantry, in the church rectory, will set a record of at least 150 families helped this month. That would break the record set just last month when 140 families received food, Farren said.

As the economy continues to flounder, the crowds continue to grow at Holy Angels and at Shepherd's Pantry in Windham.

So many families now rely on the Shepherd's Pantry that it recently became impossible to help all of them at one time. So they've been split into two groups, which come on alternate weeks to pick up their groceries, said pantry coordinator Laurie Johnson.

Food pantry coordinators said more people are out of work or have had their hours cut back. Some have lost their homes through foreclosures.

Shepherd's Pantry has seen an increase of about 30 percent — approximately 30 to 40 more families — this year, Johnson said.

Sonshine Soup Kitchen in Derry, which serves a hot meal to needy people Monday through Friday, has seen a 23 percent increase in its numbers. The kitchen served 687 people through September, compared with 558 for the same time last year, said Cynthia Dwyer, the soup kitchen coordinator.

One woman comes there three times a week for a hot meal, Dwyer said. She was happy when she found out about the soup kitchen, Dwyer said. The free meals help her get by on her Social Security disability income, she said.

Food pantries in Salem, Derry, Sandown, Hampstead and Pelham all reported increases in the number of people they are helping this year.

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