MERIDEN — New Opportunities for Greater Meriden received calls from clients without electricity Friday concerned their food would have to be thrown out.
“People had shopped with their SNAP, EBT cards and can’t keep their food frozen,” said Director Donna Ditrio. “They are desperate for generators.”
The West Main Street community action agency fielded calls from clients seeking assistance for everything from where to charge a cell phone to where to eat, Ditrio said. The agency handles rent and utility assistance and operates a food pantry. For other services, people are referred to the state’s 211 infoline. Wallingford clients are directed to find charging stations and resources in their town.
“People are hunkered down waiting for electricity,” Ditrio said. “We’ve gotten calls from families who have to throw food out. They are more than welcome to shop at our pantry. We’re open Monday through Friday.”
With thousands of people in Meriden still without power, and many facing financial hardships caused by the pandemic, dining out and fast food is a costly luxury for many. Social service agencies report people struggling to find ways to store and cook perishable food. Those who can afford generators are also finding them in short supply. Employees at Lowe’s Home Improvement Center and Home Depot, both in Wallingford, said their supplies of generators ran out early Thursday morning.
R.W. Hine Ace Hardware in hard-hit Cheshire has also had trouble keeping generators in stock, said owner Patrick Bowman. But the store has been able to keep up with the demand for five-gallon gas cans, battery-operated lanterns, propane, batteries and leaf rakes, he added.
The power outage is expected to last as late as Tuesday for some, according to Eversource representatives.
“Our mobile pantry distributions have continued as scheduled and many member agencies continue to operate in our six-county service area,” said Paul Shipman of the Connecticut Food Bank. “We know the storm is challenging for everyone and we encourage people in need to call ahead to programs they normally visit for food assistance before they travel there. Another source of information on food assistance or other needs that people are seeing right now is 211 InfoLine.”
According to data from 211 Infoline, more than 6 percent of all calls between Wednesday and Thursday involved food concerns. Healthcare accounted for most calls at 60 percent, followed by housing and shelter needs at 9 percent.
For those unable to cook and refrigerate food, eating healthy has become a challenge. School lunch sites at eight city schools can provide two daily meals for those under age 18, but adults with limited resources often turn to families and friends or the local soup kitchens to get fed, advocates said.
Lt. Colonel Kate Borrero, of the Salvation Army Corps on St. Casimir Drive, has continued the home meal delivery program to the elderly and will operate the corps’ soup kitchen today and Sunday. Borrero and volunteers are preparing 35 percent more meals than usual. During the pandemic, the Salvation Army served about 75 people per day, but are anticipating more than 100 per day over the weekend.
“We won’t really know for the next few days, but we are prepared to meet an increased demand of panty assistance if there is a need,” Borrero said in a text message. “Tomorrow and Sunday is our soup kitchen, so we are preparing extra meals in case there’s an increase there, and we think there could be an increase of need from our pantry once power returns to those households still without power, to replenish food lost from the power outage.”
The Connecticut Food Bank and the local food pantries and soup kitchens welcome cash and other donations during the power outage and the pandemic.