A Reminder From Food Pantry Volunteers: FAITH Available To All Residents
FAITH Food Pantry (FFP) is not a ministry of St Rose of Lima Church. The nonecumenical pantry is open to everyone in town, not just St Rose parishioners.
Those were two of the points Lee Paulsen and Bill Manfredonia made to members of Newtown Interfaith Council during the council’s March 6 meeting. The president of the pantry, Mrs Paulsen was hoping the town’s faith leaders could also remind members of their respective congregations and parishes to keep the food pantry and its clients in mind.
“I would just love to know that every parish knows about us,” Mrs Paulsen said.
Mr Manfredonia was speaking as both a food pantry volunteer and also a member of Knights of Columbus St Virgilius Council 185, which has long supported the pantry.
“It’s sad,” he said. “There are a lot of people in Newtown who really have needs.”
Mrs Paulsen agreed, saying it was “heartbreaking” the number of elderly people in town who are without incomes to support a proper food budget. Parents with children also continue to find help at the pantry, she pointed out.
“Every week we are getting two and three new families,” she said. “And they’re so upset. They’re shaking and crying when they arrive.
“By the end of their visit,” she added, “they’re much calmer. They know they have found help.”
On March 5, the day before the pair visited the interfaith council meeting, FFP volunteers provided supplies to 20 families, representing 64 people, Mrs Paulsen reported.
Even with the growing number of people reaching out for help, Mrs Paulsen and Mr Manfredonia have each heard murmurings about other residents who either never heard about the pantry or forgot about its existence.
The two spoke to those in attendance at the meeting last week, which included the Reverend Matthew Crebbin of Newtown Congregational Church; the Reverend Jack Tanner, Newtown Christian Church; Carrie Combs, Trinity Episcopal Church; and the Reverend Leo McIlrath, The Lutheran Home of Southbury. Congregation Adath Israel representative Steve Bamberg arrived after the two had made their presentation, but was briefed on what was presented to the group.
Much of the confusion about FFP and its relationship with St Rose came about after the pantry relocated last spring from Pecks Lane to 46 Church Hill Road. Now located in its permanent building on the grounds of the town’s Roman Catholic church, FAITH is mistakenly believed by some to be under the umbrella of St Rose, Mrs Paulsen and Mr Manfredonia fear.
“If you have people in your parish who think they can’t go because it’s at St Rose, where they aren’t members,” Mr Manfredonia said, “please tell them they are certainly welcome.
“It just happens to be at St Rose” because the church donated the land to the nonecumenical pantry in 2017 to build a permanent home, Mr Manfredonia reminded the faith leaders. “This is for all of Newtown,” he added.
The fact the pantry once again is based on church grounds does not mean that it is affiliated with the Catholic church, nor any religious organization, any more than it did when it was established in 1983 in the basement of St John’s. The pantry’s name is an acronym for Food Assistance, Immediate Temporary Help.
The current building is 430-plus feet from Church Hill Road, as the crow flies, and is not easily seen. There is lettering on the pantry’s building, but not on the road. Volunteers are counting on word of mouth to remind friends and neighbors of FAITH’s existence.
Mrs Paulsen and Mr Manfredonia were also looking for Newtown Interfaith Council for some help. They will work with those on the council to craft an announcement that will be inserted into bulletins and newsletters in upcoming weeks.
5K Run For Hunger
Before leaving the interfaith council meeting last week, Mr Manfredonia mentioned that the Knights are well into planning for the Second Annual 5K Run For Hunger. The event, returning to Fairfield Hills on May 11, will again benefit FAITH.
“Last year, all of the money that was earned after our expenses are paid went to FAITH,” he said. “This is our way to raise a couple thousand dollars to use, as they need it, through the year.”
Last year’s inaugural race also helped fill the shelves immediately after everyone crossed the finish line. In addition to the race fees, participants were asked to bring with them a canned donation when they showed up at Fairfield Hills on race morning.
Registration for this year’s race is open, at $30 per person. Sponsor opportunities are also available. Visit run4hunger-newtown.com for full details.
Food Pantry's Operating Hours
FAITH Food Pantry is open to receive donations and share its inventory each Tuesday morning between 9:30 and 11:30 am and Thursday evenings between 6 and 7:30 pm.
Nonperishable food items — especially healthy options — toiletries, paper and cleaning supplies, and pet supplies are always welcome.
“People on food stamps cannot get toilet paper, which I think is absurd,” Mrs Paulsen said March 6. “Fortunately, we have two companies — Newtown Hardware and PJ’s Laundromat — that give us a case of toilet paper each month. I can’t thank them enough for that.”
Bagged vegetables are now being accepted on Tuesdays.
“If we get vegetables on Tuesdays, they’ll stay fresh until Thursday,” Mrs Paulsen said. “If they aren’t used on Thursday, they go over to Nunnawauk Meadows, where they’ll be cooked before they go bad.”
Donations are not to be left outside the building when it is not open. There are no collections bins, and onsite signage does ask people to not leave food unattended.
Donors are asked to check expiration dates. FFP cannot use anything that is expired.
Drop boxes are available elsewhere, however. Donations can be left at office of The Newtown Bee, 5 Church Hill Road (Monday-Friday, 8 am to 5 pm), and C.H. Booth Library, 25 Main Street (Monday through Thursday, 9:30 am to 8 pm; Friday, 11 am to 5 pm; Saturday, 9:30 am to 5 pm; and Sunday (September through June), noon to 5 pm. Volunteers pick up donations at each location weekly.
Mrs Paulsen and others are also able to meet residents at other times, if needed.
“I will meet with people who want to drop off donations,” she said.
Pride can often stop a person from reaching out for help, both volunteers admitted.
“I will also meet someone who wants to pick up items privately,” Mrs Paulsen said. “Please make sure people understand that.”
FFP volunteers also encourage clients to choose what they want from the shelves.
“If they want baked beans, and we have Bush’s and Campbell’s and they want Bush’s, that’s what they go home with,” Mrs Paulsen said. “I don’t believe in giving food away that isn’t going to be used. If we can give you a preference, we’re going to do that.”
To see current wished-for items from FAITH Food Pantry, visit newtownfoodpantry.org or facebook.com/faithfoodpantrynewtown. To arrange for donations or a private visit to the pantry, contact Lee Paulsen at 203-837-0816.
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BY THE NUMBERS
1983 … year FAITH Food Pantry was established
126.2 million … average number of US households with food insecurity between 2015-17 (USDA Economic Research Service)
1.42 million … average number of CT households with food security during that timeframe (USDA)
414,730 … Connecticut residents who are food insecure (Feeding America 2016 study)
11.6% … food insecurity rate in Connecticut (also Feeding America, 2016)
9.6% … food insecurity rate in Fairfield County (Feeding America, 2016)
90,820 … residents of Fairfield County who are food insecure (Feeding America, 2016)
1,214 … families served by FAITH in 2018
3,154 … clients served by FAITH in 2018
66,234 … meals provided by FAITH in 2018
3 … locations FAITH Food Pantry has operated out of
2 … days each week the pantry is open for clients
1 … time each month a client can visit FAITH Food Pantry
2 … pieces of ID a Newtown resident needs to show to prove residency
0 … number of questions asked by FFP volunteers of new clients