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Friday, 27 March 2015 10:58

Record Donations, Record Need

By | News

Wilton Food Pantry Expanding, Prepares for Empty Bowls

WILTON – Since its inception in late 2010, the Wilton Food Pantry has been steadily growing - both in the number of people the non-profit serves and food donations received – however, 2014 proved to be record-breaking year for the pantry. 

Volunteers report 616 Wilton residents, with 214 being children, received assistance through the Wilton Food Pantry – a 26 percent increase.

“What’s interesting is, of that 26 percent, children made up 32 percent and seniors made up 30 percent,” said Dennis Towers, WFP Board Member. “To me, what that also reflects is that our confidentiality procedures are working and seniors are trusting us more.”

“It’s been hard for us to get the seniors to come in because of transportation or pride issues,” added Connie Towers, WFP Vice President. “So it’s good that they’re starting to visit us.”

In 2014, WFP distributed groceries totaling to 28,935 meals and more than 305 Wilton families have beenserved to date – with an average of 72 families per month.

With proof of Wilton residency, a person in need can stop by the pantry up to 12 times a year and receive a three-day supply of food for the size of his or her family. Board members say the pantry was founded as a way to help people get through difficult times with an emergency food supply.

While the number of people using the Wilton Food Pantry has increased, board members say it was something they anticipated. Prior to opening the pantry, the founding members conducted a Needs Assessment to survey the need and fully understand the issue of hunger in Wilton. Dennis says the group interviewed local food pantries, gathered data through social service organizations, local utilities and even the U.S. Census Bureau. Local schools were also polled on enrollments in subsidized meal programs.

“We’ve hit a point now where we’re running out of room and we need to grow,” said Dennis. “[Trinity United Methodist Church] has been a wonderful landlord all along and supporter of the program. The church has given us some options for expanding and that’s also part of the reason why we need to expand our board.”

Dennis says some terms are expiring for current board members and those positions will need to be filled. The Wilton Food Pantry has been under the direction of a “working board” to date and now needs to transition into more of a “development” board.

To help manage and direct the growth, WFP has also recently appointed its first-ever director -- Peter Maynard.

“The board has done a really good job over the last four years to get the pantry to this point,” said Maynard. “We’re lucky in the sense that the board has gotten us to a point where we can operate from strength.”

WFP also cultivated more community ties in 2014, leading to beneficial relationships with two large supporters -- Hannaford and Skidmore College. WFP’s relationship with Hannaford, which took off last May, provides a great amount of food for the pantry; while the Skidmore Ceramics Department incorporated WFP’s Empty Bowls fundraiser into its curriculum thanks to Professor Matt Wilt.

Empty Bowls is Wilton Food Pantry’s single largest source of funds. Now in its fourth year, the fundraiser allows donors to enjoy a simple meal in a unique, handcrafted bowl or a produced ceramic bowl - both of which can be kept as souvenirs -- bid on silent auction items and enjoy live music, all while benefitting the pantry.

“That so many people come together at Empty Bowls to enjoy company and camaraderie with their neighbors, while assisting us to support those in need in Wilton is heartwarming,” said Debi Zellan, WFP President. “We are thrilled to provide this opportunity to gather and to reflect on what it means to be a good neighbor.”

This year’s Empty Bowls fundraiser is Sunday, April 12 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Saratoga-Wilton Elks Lodge #161 located on Route 9. Tickets are still available for purchase either through WiltonFoodPantry.org or at Saratoga National branches in Wilton.

The Wilton Food Pantry is always in need of volunteers. If you're interested in volunteering or becoming a board member, visit WiltonFoodPantry.org. 

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