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Local food pantries eye increase in demand

Margaret Smith

Wicked Local
With the holiday season over — and a coronavirus spike expected — food pantries are bracing for an increased need, and challenges in keeping clients and volunteers safe.

“Based on the increased number of customers during the last two months coupled with COVID 19, we are expecting an increase demand for the pantry’s food,” said Robert LaPorte, of the Chelmsford Food Pantry, also known as the Chelmsford Exchange.

LaPorte is among the volunteers who have stepped up following the death of food pantry founder Sandie Donovan.

Volunteers took on a growing role as Donovan’s declining health affected her ability to run the food pantry.

‘Meeting the demand’

LaPorte said, “Fortunately, the Chelmsford community has stepped up their financial and food donation support that will allow us to meet this demand.”

During the holidays, the food pantry held limited hours, and was closed between Christmas and New Year’s Day. “However, in December we gave our food to almost 1,000 individuals,” LaPorte said.

In addition to individual donations, the food pantry receives supplies from the Merrimack Valley Food Bank. “The [food bank] is our lifeline for serving our customers and they have been phenomenal during these past few months,” LaPorte said

Needed items include gift cars to local supermarkets. “Other items include tuna fish which seems in short supply, cooking oil, mayonnaise, ketchup, canned vegetables,” LaPorte said. “However, any non-perishable item is appreciated.”

Serving families

Tim Baker, president of the Westford Food Pantry, said, “We currently serve approximately 150 families per month, equaling about 225-250 monthly visits to the pantry. We typically distribute 450 to 500 bags of food per month.

“We accept all “new” non perishable food items. Typically, items in demand  are pasta, sauce, healthy snacks for school-age children, tuna, spam, [macaroni and cheese,] peanut butter and cereal.