MAHOPAC, N.Y. - An important resource in Mahopac is being underutilized and its organizers want to get the word out.
The food pantry at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church offers free bags of food every Friday from 10 a.m. to noon to anyone and everyone who shows up. There is no need to show ID or proof of residence. When clients arrive, all they have to do is sign in and tell the volunteers how many people are in their family. The volunteers will help them gather up the groceries and bring them out to their car.
But Nancy Gagne, director of the St. John’s food pantry, said lately there has been a drop-off in the number of clients who have been coming to its doors on Friday mornings and she’s not sure why.
“There has been a downward trend in the number of people,” she said. “During the winter and Christmas time, we do about 125 families a week. Now, we are doing around 60. Summers are always slower, but this one seems particularly slow. It could be they are working now because they found part-time jobs [for the summer] or maybe it is because we are open only on Fridays and it’s hard for them to get here. I’ve also heard some say they only have one car and that can make it difficult to get here.”
Gagne said the St. John’s food pantry, which got its start back in the ‘90s, gets a monthly delivery from the regional food bank and volunteers go and pick it up from a delivery site in Brewster.
“Yesterday, we got some nice fresh vegetables, some carrots and potatoes—whatever the food bank has available,” she said.
There are also area stores, Gagne said, that donate to the cause, including Somers Hot Bagels, Rammi’s Bagel, Café Piccolo, Leaf & Java, and Dunkin’ Donuts (Mahopac), and it is starting to work with the Red Mills Market. It also works with ShopRite with the help of the Carmel Rotary.
“We manage it by family size by separating [the groceries] into bags,” she said. “So, the food goes out that way; the bigger your family, the more food you get. We pre-make the bags ahead of time. The clients come into the pantry and sign in. They just have to come to the door. There are no requirements. No ID checks.”
Gagne said everyone is offered fresh milk, a loaf of bread and some type of frozen product.
“It could be fish or meat, whatever we are able to get from the food bank. There are also canned soups, pasta, tomato sauce and a variety of dried goods available,” she said. “We are overseen by the state and have to follow state guidelines.”
About 15 to 20 volunteers gather at the church each Friday morning to help out.
“They are very hardworking and very dedicated,” Gagne said.
She explained that technically the food pantry and St. John the Evangelist Church are separate entities but, she noted, the parish members are very generous and mindful of the needs of the pantry.
“At Christmas, we try to [donate] blankets, scarves and hats through the parish,” she said. “At Easter, they fill beautiful bags with candy and other items.”
Now, all the pantry and its team of steadfast volunteers need is more clients.
“We are good with the amount of food we have, the number of volunteers. We need clients,” she said.
Gagne said the food pantry is in discussions with county officials about how home deliveries could be facilitated.
“It is something we may want to consider in the future,” she said.
The church/food pantry is located at 221 E. Lake Blvd., Mahopac.