Food drive to provide holiday meals

MILFORD — What would it be like to view Thanksgiving with dread because you don’t have enough money to put food on the table?

“Financially, these are very hard times,” said Nancy Carrington, executive director of Connecticut Food Bank. With the economy as it is, those who may never have needed food assistance for themselves or their families now find that they do because of job loss, illness or low income level, she said.

“People such as the man who has worked for more than 20 years in the construction industry and is laid off. Or the woman who is diagnosed with cancer and takes time off for medical treatment, only to be let go by her employer,” she said.In an effort to provide meals to those in need, CFB is conducting its “Thanksgiving for All 2009” campaign, a series of food drives and fundraisers to benefit those requiring food assistance during the holiday season and subsequent winter months.

To do this, CFB works with local supermarkets, businesses, media, charitable, civic and religious organizations to collect food and financial contributions, said Carrington.The turkeys and trimmings that are collected from these events will be distributed by CFB to its food-assistance member programs in six counties throughout the state, she said.

CFB Milford member programs include: the Berean Assembly of God Food Pantry, Bridges, the Combined Parishes Action Committee/Beth-El Center, the Cornerstone Christian Center, Milford Elderly Services Pantry and Soup Kitchen and St. Gabriel Church Food Pantry. CFB buys fresh items for the campaign, including carrots, apples, onions and white and sweet potatoes, according to Carrington.

“The drive works to collect donations of turkeys, stuffing and canned fruits and vegetables,” she said. If donating canned vegetables, products with low or no sodium are preferred, while for canned fruits, reduced sugar items or those packed in juice are best, since the food may be going to those who, for health reasons, need to watch salt or sugar intake.

“We’re hearing from our member programs that, on average, there are 30 percent more people in need of food assistance now, than last year at this time,” said Carrington, adding that for many, it’s the first time in their lives that they find themselves in such a position.

It’s not just in the inner cities that people are struggling, but in the suburbs and rural communities, as well, said Gladys Alcedo, CFB communications coordinator.

Last year, CFB distributed over 25,000 turkeys and more than 500,000 pounds of trimmings, which provided about 587,000 meals for those in need, said Alcedo.

Milford’s “Thanksgiving for All 2009” events include the WPLR/99.1 “Fill the Bowl” Food Drive, scheduled at ShopRite, 155 Cherry St. The drive will take place Nov. 19 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Nov. 20 from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. WPLR will broadcast live throughout the drive. If you donate a frozen turkey, 10 non-perishable food items or $10, you will receive two tickets to the Yale vs. Harvard football game Nov. 21 at the Yale Bowl.

Also, the Star 99.9 “Food for Friends” Thanksgiving Food Drive is set for Nov. 24 from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Silver Sands Stop & Shop, 855 Bridgeport Ave.

“We welcome donations of any kind, “ said Carrington. “But what people may not realize is that financial giving can go further than donations of individual items. A $5 donation can help distribute food for 17 meals,” she said.

Financial contributions may be made via the Web site or by sending checks to CFB, P.O. Box 8686, New Haven, CT 06531.