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Numbers on the rise at food pantry
MEXICO -- A short month and various closings in February, combined with seasonal layoffs are leading to an uptick in the number of families seeking help from the area's largest food pantry.
Sue Byam of GRAMPA (Greater Rumford Area Ministers and Priests Association) said, "This time of year, we're very busy. We served 16 families on Wednesday...We're seeing more families."
The food pantry, which operates out of the basement in Green Church on Main Street, was closed for a few extra days last month due to holidays and the fact they don't open when schools are off due to storms. Now, ski areas are starting to layoff season workers.
"Every week, we average six new families a week. Many are people who have not come to a food pantry before," noted Byam.
She said some of them have just moved into the area. In one case, Byam said one family recently came here from New Jersey and told her that that state paid for a bus ticket to Maine because "they said we'd (Maine) take care of them."
The good news is that even with the increase in clients, Byam said the food pantry "has done very well because we're getting donations."
On Friday, Dave Lavorgna, representing the Brookfield Foundation, made a $1,000 donation to the food pantry. In the past, Brookfield had donated to the St. John's food pantry in Rumford, but Byam said that closed last July and this food pantry is serving those people.
In receiving the donation, Byam noted that this money will buy 8,000 pounds of food from the Good Shepherd Food-Bank. "This is a big shot in the arm."
She said that on average, the food pantry has been providing an average of 34 pounds per family per month. "It adds up pretty fast...We've been told it's more generous than other food banks, but if we have it, we're going to give it."
Byam said GRAMPA has also benefitted from a surplus of food provided by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture. "We picked up one shipment last week and will pick up another next week. There's a lot of staple items."