SOUTHINGTON — The Southington library’s annual food for fines program underway this month comes as the local food pantry is unusually low on food for those struggling.
Library patrons with fines can instead donate non-perishable food items or hats, scarves or mittens to have their late fees removed. Elizabeth Chubet, adult program coordinator, said all the items collected will be donated to Southington Community Services.
Janet Mellon, community services director, said the towns’ food pantry is badly depleted. Around the holidays there’s often the most donated food but not this year.
“Usually we’re tripping over food,” Mellon said. “We’re still really short of pasta sauce and canned fruit. Snacks, especially children's snacks, we’re short that… We have no baking goods left.”
Donors to community services often do their grocery shopping and pick up a few extra items for the food pantry. With grocery bills so much higher than earlier this year, Mellon said donations have dropped off.
“Before, every day there’d be donations, quite a few donations. There are still donations every day but they’re not like they used to be,” she said. “Those extra bags aren’t coming in as frequently as they used to.”
About a thousand families are registered to receive help from the food pantry. Those eligible are determined by income limits, which are $65,000 per year for a family of four.
With the drop-off in donations and the rise in food prices, there’s now a gap between the pantry’s supply and families’ demands.
“I’m sure every food pantry is feeling the same thing,” Mellon said.
Southington receives food from Foodshare, a state-wide non-profit food pantry. Last month, Foodshare decided to spend $500,000 in emergency funds to maintain food supplies.
“We went into our reserve fund and had to spend half a million dollars in order to just get staple items for the holidays,” said Jason Jakubowski, Foodshare CEO. “It’s not something we like to do. It’s something that we had to do.”
Food donations have dropped and there’s increased need, Jakubowski said. About 425,000 families in the state are considered food insecure, he said.
“We have definitely felt it and so have our pantries all across the state,” Jakubowski said.
Foodshare is still making regular deliveries to Southington’s food pantry and others.
“The amount of food and the variety of food they’re able to get from us has definitively gone down,” Jakubowski said.
The Southington library is located at 255 Main St.
According to Chubet, fines for damaged or billed items aren’t eligible for removal through a donation. Normal fines can be lifted by donations until Dec. 27 when the program ends. Patrons should bring their library card along with a donation when participating in the food for fines program.