New Hampshire Food Bank facing low supply, high demand for help

In what one organizer called a “perfect storm,” the New Hampshire Food Bank is looking at dwindling supplies of sustenance just as demand for help from residents across the state is increasing.

While the food bank usually has enough inventory to last about a week, the shelves currently hold food for only five days’ worth of the statewide need, said Director of Operations Bruce Wilson.

Summer is usually a time of increased stress on the food bank, which collects, sorts and distributes large-scale food donations to area food pantries and other programs. Children who would eat free or reduced-priced lunch at school are home for several months, and food gathered during winter holiday drives is long gone.

This summer has brought added pressures, though, Wilson said.

“Our grocery partners, the stores where we are able to collect large amounts of food that has reached its sell-by date, are fabulous, but they’re all struggling themselves. They’re carrying lower inventories, trying to maintain their competitive edge, and that means there is less left over for them to donate, which has a negative impact on us,” he said.

Donations from grocery stores are down between 3 percent and 5 percent this year compared with last. Meanwhile, the requests for food in the first six months of 2013 were 6 percent higher than in the same time last year, he said.

Other pressures may increase soon. The federal sequestration program would cut the amount of federal funding for nutrition services for elders in the state – including Meals on Wheels – by about 5 percent, according to a report from the Administration on Aging. The national Meals on Wheels association released a survey recently showing that 70 percent of programs had cut an average of 364 meals per week. Local Meals on Wheels officials couldn’t be reached for comment yesterday.

“It’s almost like the perfect storm,” Wilson said. “The need is still there, the need is still growing, but our partners are basically providing less product.”

In Concord, the need for food has increased at the food pantry of the Gospel Light Church on Hall Street, said organizer Betsey Virgin.

Open the last two Saturdays of each month, the pantry has registered between three and six new families each time it’s been open this summer, Virgin said.

Twenty-eight families visited the pantry last Saturday, and the pantry almost ran out of food, which it gets from the food bank and several local businesses and restaurants each week, she said.

“It bothers me sometimes because when we go to place our order at the food bank, sometimes there’s really not a whole lot that we can get,” she said. “They desperately need the food in there. The only way they can help the other agencies is by people giving to them so they can help the other agencies on the local front.”

Altogether, the food bank serves about 140,000 people in the state. The best way to help the food bank is a monetary donation, because the organization has contracts for food at prices lower than wholesale costs, Wilson said.

For more information about helping, call 669-9725 or visit

(Sarah Palermo can be reached at 369-3322 or or on Twitter @SPalermoNews.)

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