Food pantries depend on Westport community during pandemic

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Ella Shi '23

The food pantry at the Gillespie Center is well-stocked after a recent food drive, allowing them to provide for those affected by the pandemic.

Ella Shi '23

COVID-19 has left many families with financial instability, food insecurity and no guarantee of what the future holds. Because of this, food pantries have seen an increase in visitors who are in dire need of assistance. Many Westport organizations have jumped into action to address this issue. However, they’ve had to alter some of their operations due to COVID-19 restrictions.

For example, the Westport Women’s Club’s (WWC) Food Closet has changed their procedures for their food pantry as they’ve seen major changes in the demographic of their visitors.

“An effect of the pandemic is the increase in requests from elderly and at-risk persons, that for obvious reasons, must stay at home,” Wendy Mckeon, Co-chairwoman of the WWC Food Closet, said. “Our requests certainly increased during the spring.” 

The WWC Food Closet has been collecting non-perishable food donations and Stop & Shop gift cards since the 1970s, but their procedure has changed drastically during the pandemic.

“In the past [donations] were delivered by us to town hall, where the clients would pick them. Due to COVID, and town hall being closed, we have had to deliver the food directly,” McKeon said.

Despite the setbacks COVID has created, McKeon still encourages those who are able to donate to the food pantry.

“Non-perishable food donations and monetary donations are always welcome and can be dropped off at the Westport Woman’s Club, located at 44 Imperial Avenue on Monday, Wednesday, Friday between 9:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m.,” McKeon said.

We are most grateful for the caring support and generosity of the people of Westport. Thank you to all. Sharing is caring.”

— Wendy McKeon

Many Westport organizations understand the severity of this issue and are working to provide food for those in need. Groups, such as the National Charity League (NCL), have created projects to ensure the food pantries throughout the community are well-stocked. Grace Burg ’23, a NCL volunteer, noticed an increase in foodbank visitors during quarantine.

“During quarantine, a lot of kids weren’t going to school, and they couldn’t get lunches there, so a lot more people were coming [to food pantries] with families,” Burg said.

NCL has hosted many food drives during the past few months to donate food to organizations in Westport and surrounding towns. The most recent food drive took place during the week of Sept. 21. Members could be seen collecting non-perishables on the Person to Person organizations’ Facebook page.

In addition, this past June, NCL announced in a press release that the organization was donating $7,300 to the Westport Department of Human Services, Homes with Hope Food Pantry, the Mercy Learning Center and Person to Person. 

The efforts of both NCL and WWC depend on the community in order to provide for those in need. Although COVID-19 has taken a toll on communities across the world, the actions of volunteers and donors have strengthened and unified the Westport community. 

“We are most grateful for the caring support and generosity of the people of Westport,” McKeon said. “Thank you to all. Sharing is caring.”