FARMINGTON — Fewer donations and more clients has the Care and Share Food Closet looking even harder for ways to ensure people have necessary nutrition.

“We are going to have to reach out to the community and area churches to help us meet the need during this time of transition,” Executive Director Leiza Hiltz Scerbo said. “The food closet is seeing more people who have lost jobs, or had hours and incomes cut.”

“We have gained 100 more clients a month,” she said. “Last year, our freezers were full, (but) now they are almost empty. Instead of a two-week supply ahead, we have just three days worth,” she said.

Donations from local grocery stores help tremendously but in some cases, those donations have also started to dwindle.

“They give us whatever they have but they have cut back on ordering,” she said.  “They order less to sell, so we get less.”

After end-of-year reports, one grocery store has had to rethink what they order, and how much they donate and have to recycle, she said. “They are still generous with what they have left over, but it is a loss for us.”

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The bounty of grocery donations helped the food closet cut expenses in half last year, she said. In 2014, the food closet spent $56,000 to purchase food, but in 2015 that expense was cut to $24,000 due to the amount of donations and not just from local grocery stores, she said.

“The killer is that some people who now walk in for help, previously wrote the biggest checks for us,” she said. “Now they have lost their jobs. I don’t want to say to them ‘There is nothing here.’ I want to say, ‘We’re here for you, as you were there for us.’ It’s important for us to help people who helped us through our hard times and make the transition for them work.”

To achieve that, a spring appeal will be reinstated, she said. Previously, the food closet held a fall and a spring appeal but last year the spring push was not held.

“We’ll have to reach out to the community more” by using “more letters of request, and I’m hoping to apply for more grants to help us pull through,” she said.

Another issue volunteers at the ecumenical food closet are seeing is the number of people who are trying to work three jobs, and who have less time at home with their children.

The food closet wants to provide snacks such as raisins or nuts for school lunches or for after school, things that require little or no cooking, she said.

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Fresh fruit is the biggest need, along with vegetables, meat or high-protein foods. Those are most nutritious, but most difficult for them to buy, she said.

To help youngsters, a group of retired teachers is working on a cookbook that will help youngsters and families know how to cook a meal with the items they receive at the food closet. 

A letter of request for another need has been sent to local churches asking for products that clients cannot buy with food stamps, such as toilet paper, diapers and paper towels.

Anyone who would like to make a monetary donation may send checks, made out to Care and Share Food Closet, to P.O. Box 38, West Farmington, ME 04992, Attn: Dale Bardo. 

For questions, the food closet has an email address, [email protected]

The Farmington Area Ecumenical Ministry website says the food closet serves residents of Farmington, West Farmington, Farmington Falls, New Sharon, Chesterville, Temple, New Vineyard, New Portland and North New Portland, who meet federal eligibility guidelines for food insecurity. It provides a four- to five-day supply of food per household once a month from the lower level of the Fairbanks School community center, 508 Fairbanks Road in Farmington.

[email protected]


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