In Manchester, a center city food pantry gets a new look
Four times a day, two vans from Family In Transition collect food around Manchester to bring to their newly renovated pantry on Lake Street.
From there, they triage the food to different locations, including emergency shelters and substance use treatment programs. The rest is kept on the shelves for about 50 people who stop in every day searching for groceries.
When the pantry first opened in late 2020 to respond to the food insecurity during the pandemic, “it looked like a warehouse,” said Families in Transition's Chief External Relations Officer, Stephanie Savard. Back then, she said volunteers reported that some people felt ashamed to pick food from boxes.
These days, the food pantry looks much more like a grocery store, with meat freezers, shopping carts and produce coolers. It’s thanks to a new $50,000 donation from Hannaford Supermarkets.
“The goal was so folks could walk in and feel proud,” Savard said.
People can find canned food, sweets, fresh produce, meat items, hygienic products, blankets and flowers in the pantry. For Thanksgiving, they will have 300 turkeys available.
Any unused food is sent to a pig farmer or another local farmer who comes and picks it up, said Meghan Shea, chief programs officer at Families in Transition.
Families in Transition's food pantry served 1,000 households in October. The nonprofit's staff said it is a big jump from last year.
“It must be the inflation,” said Savard.
Over the past decade, Hannaford Supermarkets said it had donated $3.2 million pounds of food to Families in Transition. Almost 95% of the products in the pantry are donated, with the exception of coffee and small condiments.
Earlier this week, Michelle Hianen waited in line outside the pantry to enter. Her favorite meal is empanadas, and she usually gets the ingredients here. She said she has been fighting not to be homeless for a long time.
“This [place] gives me a sense of security,” she said.
Savard said Families in Transition has been making special efforts to serve immigrant communities by making sure that they are culturally appropriate and offer language assistance. They have also been trying to get more products to bring local immigrants closer to home.
People only need to provide their names to access the food at the pantry. They are also asked to weigh their shopping cart at the exit to help the nonprofit understand how much food is given out. On average, the organization said each family picks up 70 pounds each time they shop.
In addition to providing food, the pantry can also connect people to housing resources or treatment.