Despite assurances from individual grocers and trade associations for the industry that there is ample supply of provisions, shoppers continue to empty shelves of basics at grocery stores.
For local food shelves the need is acute.
Many communities have collection points and nonprofits that are helping with the effort, and they are in need of volunteers and donations across the region.
NEKCA, which operates from the old Lincoln Street School in St. Johnsbury, earlier this week put out a plea for both its NEK centers, for volunteers. People are needed who can plan meals and help prepare freezable meals to be distributed, using food from local businesses and other sources.
Contact the agency at either (802) 748-6040 or (802) 334-7316.
At a food distribution at lunch time on Wednesday in front of the United Community Church (formerly the North Church) on Main Street in St. Johnsbury, notices about how to get needed food from NEKCA were distributed.
Help is also available by Googling Southern NEK Mutual Aid. People are instructed to find the Southern NEK food delivery request form.
Instead of the usual weekly sit-down meal at the church, bags of food were set outside in the snow and prepared lunches were given out at a table. Beth Norris and daughter, Kathleen donned blue masks and handed them to people who walked up to the table or who pulled up in vehicles.
Some restaurants, which have opted to close rather than try to convert to takeout-only service as required under the restrictions on businesses, are donating food.
That’s the case for the Happy Hour Restaurant in Wells River, whose owner donated food to Blue Mountain Union School District, for meals for students.
Schools continue to prepare food and distribute it at locations across the region, both at school drops, in their respective communities, and by delivery on school buses and district vans.
NEKCA has commercial kitchens and is now operating a skeleton crew.
At the Faith In Action Cabot Food Share event on Wednesday, the food drop went on as planned, but because of the coronavirus and social distancing requirements being ordered by the government, people were advised to remain in their vehicles, said Executive Director Cynthia Stuart.
People in need of food were given numbers and were called up by number at the food distribution, which began at noon.
Stuart said food is continuing to be boxed up and distributed from the nonprofit’s office in downtown Lyndonville daily as well to meet the demand.
Sid’s Pantry, a food shelf operated by volunteers in Stuart’s hometown in Concord, is continuing to take donations, which can be left at the Concord Health Center, she said this week.
Rebecca Hill Larsen runs the All Saints’ Community Food Cupboard in Littleton, N.H. She said, “We’re doing social distancing and still giving out food and wellness items like soap and shampoo.”
Donations are urgently needed and accepted, said Larsen.
Among the suggested help for food shelves like All Saints, are “easy to make foods like Rice-a-Roni, Chef Boyardee mac-n-cheese, cereal, canned black beans, shelf stable milk or juice. We have plenty of frozen meats right now and have no extra room for freezer items,” Larsen said.
Items can be dropped off when the food cupboard is open, Tuesdays/Thursdays, 9-10 a.m., or Sundays, 9-9:45 a.m.
She said, “Clients don’t need to be on federal or state assistance, there is an income level to qualify, $47,000 or less family of four.”
All Saints Church is located at 35 School St. in Littleton, but its food cupboard entrance is through the parking lot behind the Community Center off Main Street, said Larsen. She urged people who are donating items they have on hand at home to check expiration dates, as the food shelf cannot distribute items that have past due dates.
Also in Northern New Hampshire, help is available and donations are accepted at the Good Shepherd Ecumenical Food Pantry at 65 South Court St. in Woodsville. The food pantry is open Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and has evening hours on Wednesdays.
At HOPE in Lyndonville, whose thrift shop and food pantry are closed to the public due to the coronavirus, the agency is still continuing to fill and deliver backpacks for local children, said the local charity’s founder and executive director, Jodi Wheeler.
“HOPE is still making 129 backpacks per week,” Wheeler said. “Any food that can go in backpacks is more than welcome for donation. Cash donations are also very welcome and needed. They can purchase items at a lower cost from the food bank.”