May 26, 2021

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s Molly Rodriguez Day!

At the Village board of trustees meeting last night, Mayor Rossillo declared today Molly Rodriguez Day in recognition of her 10 years of service as director/co-director of the Dobbs Ferry Food Pantry. Here’s Molly displaying her Village proclamation. Take a bow, Molly!

Did we set another record today? We certainly were busy this morning serving a steady stream of clients – 154 families, including 48 deliveries, and totaling 549 people. Another 11 households picked up tonight. 

Let’s follow clients on a typical Wednesday morning. After they pick up their box of shelf-stable items, bag of produce, and maybe diapers, they make their way past tables of what I call extras – today, dairy items donated by Mom’s Organic Market and cereals from Stop & Shop, eggs, even a handful of fresh oregano, then on to the assortment of “freebies,” – one-off donations that might include balsamic vinegar, dog food, herbal tea, or Grey Poupon. Their final stop is our returns table. Why it took us a year to invite patrons to return the unwanted items in their pre-packed boxes I don’t know but it caught on instantly. Don’t love black beans? Return them and take a second box of mac and cheese or can of pineapple. There’s no one thing that comes back to us, but one finding has emerged: chunky peanut butter is far more popular than creamy. Who knew?

Food pantry day has become a convenient way to reach many families served by Spring Community Partners. Today we added a table where local moms could sign up their school-aged kids up for next year’s school supplies, which can cost up to $90 depending on their grade, or gain access to the village pool this summer at a very discounted rate. It is a joy to witness all Spring’s efforts, funded by fundraisers and community donors, that enrich the lives of our pantry families. 

When I first volunteered in 2013, I expected to spend a couple hours one morning a week at the pantry and call it a day. I had no inkling of the number of people working behind the scenes between Wednesdays and the man-hours (and woman-hours) spent strategizing, procuring, storing, schlepping, packing, and solving logistical challenges outside of pantry hours. Here’s an example: We can’t just waltz into Stop & Shop and buy 300 cans of tuna or 150 pounds of penne when we need them.

We order in bulk from folks who can supply what we need when we can receive it. We depend heavily on the pallets from Feeding Westchester that contain enough of 10 or so items to serve 120 families for one week. Usually the 1400-pound pallets are delivered but what happens when our assigned delivery day is a holiday, like Memorial Day, and the pallet on offer has stuff we desperately want? We mobilize a caravan of drivers to pick it all up on Tuesday instead. And on the Tuesday before the last Wednesday of the month, we pick up the monthly Green Thumb produce allotment to distribute the next day. Artichokes and mangoes, anyone?

Another peek behind the scenes: Dr. Nitin Gupta of Rivertowns Pediatrics wears many hats besides that of community pediatrician. Earlier this month he spent two sessions at the pantry to give first vaccines to a total of 28 pantry clients and others. Last Saturday you might have seen him at Stop & Shop spearheading the Rivertowns Rotary diaper drive to benefit the pantry. A big thanks to all of you who donated “carloads” of diapers and almost $600 cash. It’s been a while since I bought diapers, but Google tells me that a month’s supply of disposables can run $70-80. A recent NY Times article on the demand for diapers at food pantries quoted one mom as saying that she always has a can or two of food she can stretch to feed her kids, but you can’t exactly stretch a diaper. It figures that diapers fly off our shelves as fast as we get them in.

Here are Dr. Gupta (and his kids) with Jean Sear and store manager, Jim, during Saturday’s diaper drive:

Is this salsa verde? Pesto sauce? I’m sure it’s yummy but, unfortunately, we cannot distribute items that are homemade, unlabeled, undated, or in glass jars. Did I mention the mess today when someone dropped a box containing a glass jar of Prego?

Items most needed now: dried black beans, white rice, pasta sauce (cans or plastic jars only!), diapers – especially sizes 4, 5 & 6, and baby wipes.

Time is running out to buy a Give Back reusable shopping bag at Stop & Shop to benefit our pantry. For each purchase during May, the store will donate $1. I say you can’t have too many shopping bags.

Today’s newsletter written by our cherished and longtime volunteer, Ellen Klein.

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