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Sunday, 29 November -0001 19:03

Wilton Denies Food Pantry Budget

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WILTON – After reviewing the preliminary budget proposed by Wilton Town Supervisor Arthur Johnson, the town board voted 3-2 to eliminate $5,000 in funding for the newly formed Wilton Food Pantry (WFP), prompting WFP Board Member Dennis Towers to speak out during the Thursday, November 10 town board meeting.

“Last month, food was provided to nearly 120 souls,” said Towers. “We have provided 3,123 meals [from] July 27 to October 31.”

The town, noted Towers, has helped to financially support a local food pantry in the past. After obtaining their 501(c)3 status as a nonprofit organization, Towers said the town had indicated they would once again support the food pantry’s efforts.

“The funds were put in the budget to support the effort,” said Towers, “but they were eliminated by three members of the board.”

Supervisor Arthur Johnson and Deputy Supervisor Raymond O’Conor voted in favor of the funding, but were overruled by Councilmen Robert Rice, Charles Gerber and Robert Pulsifer.
“When you first start up a food pantry, there are certain limitations,” said Supervisor Johnson. “For six months you can’t get food through the regional food bank, among other challenges. So I was just trying to help them along in getting started for their first year. I thought that they were certainly a worthy organization to fund.”

“I think things like the food pantry are terrific, private initiatives,” said Councilmen Pulsifer, who voted against the town funding the pantry. “The wrong place to look for funding is government, because when you start talking about government jumping in there, that will probably dissuade private people from making donations because they assume the government will pick up the tab. Honestly, it’s not the town’s responsibility to help create the social safety net that maybe the state government or federal government ought to provide.”

Government funding for this type of project, argued Pulsifer, would open up what he considers to be a dangerous precedent.

“This was a good idea, but if the town starts supporting this, what other good ideas are we to support as well?” said Pulsifer.

While Towers and the WFP were disappointed by the town’s decision, the organization is still plowing forward with its mission.

“It speaks volumes about priorities,” said Towers about the town’s vote. “But I don’t believe that it speaks for the community.”

Despite leaving the pantry without official town support, the community’s response has been overwhelmingly positive to the new food pantry operating out of Trinity United Methodist Church at 155 Ballard Rd. in Wilton.

“DA Collins stepped up as a business and did a company-wide food drive. That provided over 420 items, which is substantial, and they also donated $1,000 cash on top of that,” said Towers.
In addition, entire neighborhoods, such as Furlong Hills, have gotten into the act. The neighborhood held “Make a Difference Day,” where they organized a food drive of their own after contacting the WFP for guidance.

“They let us know what they were doing, and we provided them our logo and a list of our needs. The rest they did themselves, which was great,” said Towers, who encourages others with similar initiatives to contact the WFP for their assistance.

SUNY Adirondack has also pitched in with the effort, along with schools like Dorothy Nolan Elementary and businesses like Custom Renovations.

“One thing that really touches me is that a lot of kids for Halloween, instead of collecting candy, they went out and collected food and brought it to the food bank,” said Towers.

While the food pantry, still in its infancy, is currently unable to apply for food from the regional food bank or for numerous funding grants (they must hit the one year mark to apply for such grants), it’s contributions like those listed above that keep the organization alive, that give it a sense of hope and purpose.

“There is food insecurity in Wilton. People are forced to make a choice – do I buy glasses for my kid? Do I pay a bill? Or do I eat? The WFP board members and the volunteers and the community will make sure that we are there to resolve the food insecurity that obviously exists in our community.”

As the holidays draw near, the WFP is once again turning to the community and asking for their support. Individuals are encouraged to donate both food and funds, and organizations are invited to contact the pantry to organize food drives of their own. Visit www.wiltonfoodpantry.org tolearn more about the organization, or to see how you can get involved.

“Every time we get our name out there, there’s a direct increase in the amount of donations and in the number of people coming in for assistance,” said Towers. “Our focus right now is to get things going, feed people, make the community aware of us and put our feet on solid ground.”

For more information, visit www.wiltonfoodpantry.org.

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