Stigma, transportation may be keeping numbers down
By LEE J. KAHRS
PITTSFORD – The Pittsford Food Shelf is stocked and ready to help residents with their grocery needs. The only thing missing are more customers.
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a surge in business at local food shelves all over the country as people are laid off, businesses close and incomes shrink. Pittsford Food Shelf Director Robin Rowe says she and her team of volunteers are taking orders and shopping for customers, bringing the groceries out to waiting cars wearing facemasks and gloves.
But the non-profit is currently serving about 10 families in its coverage area, comprised of Pittsford, Proctor, Chittenden and Florence.
“We’re getting about three new families a week,” Rowe said. “It could be one person, it could be five. I call them all a family. I’m hoping more will come in.”
Rowe said she isn’t sure why more families aren’t signing up for food shelf services.
She has put up signs around town, informed the administration at the schools in all the towns, and the teachers have posted the information on Facebook. Rowe wonders if stigma is the problem.
“I’m scratching my head,” she said. “It doesn’t matter how much you make, at one time or another, we all have a need and it’s now and we’re here to help. There is no shame. We are all in the same boat.”
Another issue could be transportation. Many people may not know that Rowe will arrange to have food shelf orders delivered, often personally.
“Call me,” Rowe said. “I will find what they need and will bring it to them.”
Senior citizens are already eligible for delivery services, but Rowe said anyone needing a delivery of food can give her a call.
The Pittsford Food Shelf provides a full range of groceries to clients, including milk, eggs, bread, butter, meat and canned goods. There is also pet food, laundry detergent, dish soap, paper towels, and, yes, toilet paper.
“I’ve been trying to get things that people really need,” said Rowe, who stocks the food shelf buying locally through Keith’s Country Store and Kamuda’s Market in Pittsford. There is also a monthly trip to Costco.
Items usually distributed at the monthly USDA-sponsored commodities distribution held at St. Alphonsus Catholic Church in Pittsford will be available for pick up at the food shelf starting in May. The commodities program is held the first Wednesday of each month.
Rowe said that Federal food deliveries have increased in size over the last three weeks since the pandemic ramped up.
“I guess because of the pandemic they’re ramping up the food deliveries,” Rowe said. “They sent April and May together, so seniors have two months worth of food, which is great.”
As far as donations go, Rowe said it’s hard to say how much the COVID-19 pandemic is responsible for increased donations because the food shelf’s annual fundraising campaign is going on right now.
“The generosity out there is just amazing,” she said. “The checks I’ve seen have been very generous. Some of the notes are so heartwarming. People are feeling blessed to be home and safe.”
But more help is always needed, as the need for the food shelf services will only increase as the pandemic continues over the next few months. Rowe reiterated that people should feel supported in asking for help from the food shelf if they need it.
“I know there are people who have a need,” she said. “No one is here to judge them.”
If you are a resident of Pittsford, Florence, Chittenden or Proctor, call the food shelf to sign up for services at 483-2967 or 558-5768. If you are already a client and need delivery services, call those numbers as well to set up delivery.
The Pittsford Food Shelf is open Mondays, 9-11 a.m. and Thursdays, 4- 6 p.m. The food shelf is located at 4085 U.S. Route 7 next to Keith’s Country Store.
Donations can be made to the Pittsford Food Shelf, P.O. Box 553, Pittsford, VT 05763.