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Sunday, June 27, 2010

Pantries seek donations to fill shelves

NASHUA – People generally think of food drives during the winter holiday season, but it’s the summer months that take the biggest toll on families that can no longer rely on a school lunch program helping out their kids.

The Summer Food Drive, which started Saturday and runs until July 30, has been put on by the Southern New Hampshire Medical Center and St. Joseph Hospital for 15 years. Recently, the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce has joined the effort by attracting local businesses to support the many citizens in need.

“We served more meals in the month of May than we have ever served in our almost 30 year history,” said Lisa Christie the Executive Director of the Nashua Soup Kitchen and Shelter. “We served 1,705 breakfasts and 4,265 dinners.”

Christie has also watched a staggering 30 percent increase in the distribution of their food boxes. The boxes have nonperishable items liked canned tuna and pasta as well as some meat, a dozen eggs and, if the box is going to a family, there will be a gallon or two of milk.

“We look for people to donate more nutritious foods, we give out fresh fruits and vegetables every day,” Christie said. “Over a hundred people a day come in and get fresh fruit and vegetables.”

Christie has also taken Ramen Noodles out of the food boxes because they are not very nutritious and high in sodium, as is the case with many inexpensive foods.

“The summer food drives are really great because not a lot of people are thinking about donating during the summer,” Christie said. “They are really important to us and the other food pantries in town.”

Carol Connor, the director of development at The Nashua Pastoral Care Center, said the food drive is critical at this time of the year. The pastoral care center is not a walk-in pantry. The center provides bags of food for people on a case-by-case basis.

“There is definitely a need and the need increases in the summer months,” Connor said. “We are very grateful for the generosity of our community members for helping with this need.”

The community members and businesses are being asked to help out in any way they can. Angela Velasquez of the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce has contacted businesses to be drop off sites. She sent out a newsletter that reached more than 1,200 people on their mailing list.

“It only helps us to help each other,” Velasquez said. “We have a very close relationship with the two hospitals.”

St. Joseph Hospital and SNHMC have been at the center of the food drive for a decade and a half. Julie Eckmann, of SNHMC, wants the awareness of the drive to grow throughout the month of the donation period. She said the two hospitals will have boxes in the front lobby where people can drop off their items.

Jerry Leclerc is the coordinator of mission activities at St. Joseph Hospital. Leclerc is expecting the food drive to deliver the amount that it has in the past few years since the economy has withered like the summer food supply.

The food drive counts its food in pounds not individual items and Leclerc is expecting somewhere between 5,000 to 8,000 pounds of food and goods. Leclerc said the totals used to be in the tens of thousands of pounds, but that was before the recession.

Leclerc said some good things to donate would be toilet paper, napkins, diapers and other tissue products because those items cannot be purchased with food stamps. He said they try to push peanut butter because it has a lot of protein, and tuna and beef stew are always great to get.

The two hospitals are the main areas for donations and good from other drop off zones are eventually transferred to them. Leclerc said the hospitals donate 200 pounds of goods at a time. The two hospitals divvy up the list of 12 locations that will receive the much needed help.