Upheaval at Market Basket Has Effect on Food Pantries
Ed Watson, of Unity, N.H., stocks peanut butter while volunteering at the Newport Area Association of Churches Food Pantry in Newport, N.H., on August 17, 2014. Because many Market Basket customers have been shopping at Hannaford since the strikes, Hannaford has less food to donate to the pantry. (Valley News - Ariana van den Akker) Purchase photo reprints »
Ed Watson, of Unity, N.H., grabs peanut butter from the storage shelves while volunteering at the Newport Area Association of Churches Food Pantry in Newport, N.H., on August 17, 2014. Normally the shelves are completely full, but because many Market Basket customers have been shopping at Hannaford since the strikes, Hannaford has had less food to donate to the pantry. (Valley News - Ariana van den Akker) Purchase photo reprints »
Newport — The bare shelves at Market Basket stores across the region has translated to fewer items on the shelves at some Upper Valley food pantries .
Newport Food Pantry on South Main Street has seen a disruption in donations — perhaps the most significant in 17 years — since an ownership dispute shuttered Market Basket warehouses and crippled operations more than six weeks ago, Jim Demers, the food pantry’s director, said.
Though Market Basket didn’t regularly donate to the pantry, other area grocery stores that do, such as Shaw’s Supermarket, which has a store in Newport, and Hannaford, are selling more goods, leaving fewer overstock items to distribute to charities.
“Since the Market Basket debacle, we started getting less and less from Shaw’s and Hannaford, through no fault of their own,” Demers said. “I don’t think people realize that when something like this happens in another town , it has a trickle-down effect in a small town like Newport, N.H.”
The decline in food donations from grocery stores coupled with an increase in demand has nearly depleted the pantry’s shelves, Demers said.
The food pantry, which is operated by the Newport Area Association of Churches, saw 38 new applicants in June, followed by 22 new applicants in July. It typically gets 10 to 11 new applicants a month. It served 195 households in Newport and nine surrounding communities last month.
On Monday morning, the storage shelves in the basement, which are usually stocked with goods, were bare. The shelves on the main floor, including the fridge, were less than half full.
Hannaford Spokesman Mike Norton said Monday that the company’s stores have seen an increase in shoppers since the Market Basket dispute and there were fewer goods left over at the end of each day.
KLS Community Food Pantry in New London has also been affected by the ongoing dispute over Market Basket, which has stores in Claremont and Warner, N.H.
“I haven’t noticed it tremendously, but there has been a bit of a reduction,” Terri Bingham, chairwoman of the pantry’s board of directors, said.
As in Newport, the KLS pantry, which serves about a dozen surrounding communities, does not receive donations directly from Market Basket. Likewise, it has seen an increase in the number of families requesting food assistance.
“When comparing the first six months of 2014 to the first six months of 2013, we saw a 17 percent increase (in applicants),” Bingham said. “We are seeing new families every week.”
Though demand is growing and supplies are unpredictable, neither pantry has been forced to turn anyone away. The pantries commonly purchase goods at reduced rates from the New Hampshire Food Bank in Manchester and at area grocery stores with monetary donations from private donors and other community organizations, Demers said.
Cecil Callum, 74, of Unity, and his wife have frequented the Newport Food Pantry for at least two years.
“It is a lot of help,” Callum said in a phone interview on Monday. “It really helps with the food bill.”
Newport Food Pantry volunteer Danielle Haxton, of Sunapee, said the food banks play an integral role in the community.
“There are lot of people out there who are struggling, and any assistance they can get in regards to food is really needed and greatly appreciated,” Haxton said.
Terry Smith, a Newport Food Pantry volunteer from Goshen, said summer is a pivotal time.
“You have kids in school who get free lunches, but when school is out, what happens to those kids?” Smith said. “Those kids are hurting through the summer.”
She added: “We are just trying to do the best we can with what we have.”
At the Claremont Soup Kitchen, which also has a food pantry, Director Jan Bunnell said she hasn’t noticed an interruption in the flow of goods. Claremont’s pantry receives donations from Hannaford and Wal-Mart, she said.
Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3248.