Food pantry seeks new digs

Need has steadily grown in Bethlehem along with recession

— Becker said families in need are first paired with a social worker before they visit the pantry to find them additional help.

“Many people have no idea what is out there for them,” she said.

Becker said one of the main problems for Bethlehem residents who find themselves unemployed is they are overqualified for many entry-level positions.

“We’re seeing more people go back into the workforce after being trained to do something entirely different, but in the short term they need some help.”

The food pantry has about eight regular volunteers who help throughout the year. Sanders said the largest food drives held by local Boy Scouts, the Post Office and the library keep the pantry stocked throughout the summer and into the fall. After that, there is a delivery every two weeks of purchases from the Regional Food Bank.

All of the food is then sorted and stacked into cabinets. The town food pantry doesn’t have refrigeration, so only nonperishable items can be accepted. For some people in emergency situations, Bethlehem Senior Projects will provide supermarket gift cards.

“We encourage people to get their boxed or nonperishable food from us so they can save their money for fresh produce,” said Sanders. “We try to give a couple weeks worth of meals depending on size of family, but they shouldn’t just be eating what we have to give. People can’t live on that.”

Cosmetics, cleaning products and toiletries are also accepted. “We like to be able to have a small variety of toiletries available because they are items that cannot be purchased with food stamps,” Sanders said.

She said there is no additional space available within Town Hall. Indeed, town leaders last year bemoaned the lack of space when embarking on a project that, among other things, saw conference rooms split up to create additional offices.

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