WILTON — The Care and Share Food Closet, which for more than 25 years has provided food to area residents in need, was recognized Thursday with a Salt and Light Award at the Farmington Area Ecumenical Ministry’s annual meeting.

“Last year, 7,777 individuals  were served by the food closet,” said the Rev. Tim Walmer from St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Wilton, who hosted the meeting. “It’s a big number and says a great deal. The need is now vital.”

While fuel, food and health care prices along with unemployment have gone up, public resources to support the food closet have gone down, he said.

The number of people served last year went up a thousand from the year before, said Carolyn McLaughlin, who with husband, Tony, co-chairs the food closet.

“We’ve been busy,” she said.

At least three volunteers are needed to serve clients during the hours  when the food closet, located at the Fairbanks School Meetinghouse in Farmington, is open. Between 10-23 families are regularly served within the two-hour period it’s open, she said.

Volunteers have seen less elderly coming for food but are unsure why.

“That bothers me,” she said. “I know there is a need.”

According to the food closet annual report, those 7,777 people were served with expenses at $49,000 or $6 a client per year, the Rev. Kimberly Hoare, interim pastor at  Old South Congregational Church in Farmington, said.

The food closet depends on the work of many volunteers, donations from area churches, schools and postal drives, and recent bequests, McLaughlin said.

Some good news, she said, is that commodity shipments or free food from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that were formerly delivered about four times a year are now coming monthly. That’s because of a new manager in Augusta. The shipments are for all food closets in the area. 

The food closet has received chicken and pork, eliminating the need to purchase meat since last Thanksgiving, she said.

Younger volunteers are needed to help unload from the truck and to transport and unload at the food closet.

Foods purchased from the Good Shepherd Food-Bank remains essential to the food closet’s work.

With a dollar donation, cereal can be purchased at 16 cents per pound versus $3-$4 price per box in retail stores, Tony McLaughlin told the group gathered for the meeting.

Monetary donations also help the food closet purchase personal hygiene items, toothpaste, toilet paper and soap, items that can’t be purchased with food stamps.

The Care and Share Food Closet first opened in the United Methodist Church building when it was on Main Street in Farmington. It moved to Western Maine Community Action, then to the Fairbanks Union Church before moving to the Fairbanks School Meetinghouse where the need for more space is now an issue.

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