July 28, 2021

This week’s distribution on July 28th fed 163 families, representing 587 individuals (including 42 deliveries).  The totals include 23 families representing 90 people served at our nighttime session.

We at the Food Pantry are continually amazed at the ways in which our sources of donated food and funds work their way to meet the weekly needs of our clients despite the vagaries of vacations, economics, weather and health emergencies.

Of course, these things don’t happen just by themselves.  It always starts with you, the individuals, who make this all happen by your singular donations or by participating in food drives. Our amazement lies in the differing pathway that emerge that ultimately connect your intentions with our clients’ needs.

Our goal is not simply to provide the basic “Box and a Bag” of shelf stable food and fresh fruit and vegetables that families need to maintain basic nutrition.  We – you, actually – go beyond that to provide other things that allow those in need to expand the variety and nutritional balance that supports good health.

Take bread, for example, a basic food we received irregularly and one that’s difficult for us to store for once-a-week distribution.  Thanks to the combined efforts of Panera Bread (Scarsdale), The Shop (Ardsley) and NY Bagel (Dobbs Ferry), we now have a table at which clients can select a variety of bread, bagels, rolls and sometimes even pastry from the same stores who have decided to join their customers in supporting the FP.

Similar supply miracles continue to happen this past week:

  • Lenora Cohen and Elmwood Day Camp made the second of three scheduled donations, dropping off several boxes of food.
  • Another delivery by Aldersgate Methodist Church of Dobbs Ferry made by a man who slips away before anyone can thank him.
  • A bag of food from a mother who said she wanted to help because of the great experience her teenage son recently had working as a volunteer for us.
  • And thanks to each and every one who has donated to us – at our table at the Jazz Forum each Wednesday evening (great time, great music), at Stop ‘n Shop’s food donation bins, through local restaurants, and also from those area organizations who provide the bulk of our Variable Inventory.

If you are reading this, then you’ve found all the ways in which you can help us provide the things we need. 

MOST NEEDED ITEMS: Size 4, 5 and 6 diapers and baby wipes, peanut butter in plastic jars, tomato sauce in plastic jars and cans of tuna.

This weeks blog written by pantry volunteer Duke Coffey.

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July 21, 2021

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” – Gandhi

The effort, teamwork, compassion and hard work that go into making the Dobbs Ferry Food Pantry run is a sight to behold. From the amazing teenage volunteers who come with full hearts and great attitudes to the community volunteers who set up the tables so it looks like a beautiful farmers market and help guide the clients through selections.

The vendors who donate have truly made a world of difference. Elmwood Day Camp – donated today and will contribute for the next two weeks. The Scarsdale Woman’s Club pulled up in three cars loaded with food and diapers. Panera Bread has given us donations of breads and pastries and New York Bagel Authority donated bagels and will continue to do so. MOM’s Organic Market has also continuously donated generously. Please stop by these establishments and let them know how much you appreciate their contribution to the community.

The most important aspect of the Dobbs Ferry Food Pantry are the families we serve. Our mission is not only to sup​​ply food but to treat our clients with kindness and empathy and for them to leave the pantry with hope that tomorrow can be better than today. 

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

DONATE: Your cash donations go a long way in keeping the pantry stocked. We also have a table set up every Wednesday night at the Dobbs Ferry Summer Music Series in Waterfront Park. Please stop by! 

MOST NEEDED ITEMS: Size 4, 5 and 6 diapers and baby wipes, peanut butter in plastic jars, tomato sauce in plastic jars and tuna.

This week’s newsletter written by Pantry volunteer, Donna Assumma. Photos by Crane Photography.

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July 16, 2021

As a kid, I remember going to South Church and hearing what Rev. Joe Gilmore would say when he passed out the collection baskets. “Give what you can, take what you need”. 

Back then the food pantry was just that: a pantry. That’s all that was needed. Coming back to it as a volunteer at the beginning of this year I was in awe to find the pews filled with food, from the first to the last. Awe changed to dismay when I realized what that really meant. If there is this extraordinary effort to come together, that means there is a huge number of people who need the help. 

Since then, the Food Pantry has moved out of the Sanctuary — but the amount of space used and the amount of food needed has only increased. This week we served 121 families. 7 new families. 445 total people. 

Inside, I see volunteers work hard to put together food for big families, break down boxes and organize diapers into sizes. Outside, those who need it get their food, flanked by young people rolling carts, station by station. They greet volunteers with tender smiles and fantastic senses of humor. Everybody is playing their part for a larger cause. 

With everyone going away for the summer and with the pandemic numbers going down, there is a drop in donations. With school out, kids are missing two out of three guaranteed meals for the day. 

Which means donations are more important than ever. 

Most needed items this week: peanut butter (in plastic jars), pasta sauce (in plastic jars or cans), tuna, diapers size 4, 5, 6, and baby wipes.

Here’s one more Joe Gilmore quote – on his work with Midnight Run: “It’s not charity. It’s justice.”

This week’s newsletter was written by 18-year-old Lucas Nammour, DFHS class of ’20.

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July 7, 2021

July 7, 2021

“I’m back in the line again,” says a pantry client after standing in line for a bag of produce and a box of packaged food, then moving on to the breakfast table where she picks up cereal and milk, giving us a moment to catch up. She recently lost her job and returned to the pantry for help, but she wished she didn’t have to be here.

The following week a client waits in line wearing a T-shirt that says, “I CAN WIN!” As I hand her a box of Cheerios, I see that her eyes tell a different story, one that doubts whether she really can win at a time when roughly 40 million Americans are officially below the poverty line while millions of people with income above that line struggle to pay for housing, food, and other essentials.

The pantry opens at 10 a.m., but the line of people needing food starts forming around 9 a.m. Volunteers hustle to display food, pack dairy products on ice, and more.

More than Just Numbers

Every week our pantry typically helps up to 150 families—around 600 people.

“If you talk about the suburbs on the whole, without distinguishing the various types of suburbs, suburban poverty is quite prevalent,” says Patrick Cooney, assistant director of policy impact at the University of Michigan’s Poverty Solutions.

Cooney points out that a researcher at the Brookings Institution, a nonprofit public policy organization based in Washington, found that in suburbs that are single-family neighborhoods (where more than 90 percent of the homes in a neighborhood are single-family) the poverty rate is 6 percent. Surprising, perhaps, yet that’s less than half the poverty rate for the country as a whole.

“In more affluent areas, it’s likely far less,” says Cooney. “This is largely a result of exclusionary zoning laws, which prevent different housing types from being built in affluent areas.”

Want to Help?

Our pantry relies on donations of money and food to help our neighbors. Temple Beth Shalom in Hastings regularly supports the pantry and this week they donated avocados for all of our families; Panera Bread on Central Avenue in Scarsdale now donates bread and sweet rolls. Our clients were thrilled to receive this food.  

Diapers are expensive, which is why some of our clients desperately need them for their children (especially size 4, 5 and 6). This week, Woodlands Community Temple’s Natalie Werner delivered pull-ups, and Nat Graham also donated diapers. Many thanks!

If you’d like to help, leave donations of food (no glass containers, please) and diapers in the bin outside the church doors, and for larger donations contact us at dobbsferrypantry@gmail.com.

Our wish list includes canned tuna, crunchy peanut butter, rice, and low-sugar cereals such as Cheerios, Honey Nut Cheerios, corn flakes, Special K, and oatmeal.

Plain, Pumpernickel, or Poppy? The Shop in Ardsley now donates bagels to the pantry on a regular basis. Our clients thank you.

Kimberly Janeway, a pantry volunteer, wrote this week’s newsletter and provided the photos.  

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June 30, 2021

“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers….”

Oh, right, that’s the postal service. (Actually, it seems the USPS doesn’t have an official motto, but that’s a topic for another day.) But I think the words also apply to the Dobbs Ferry Food Pantry, especially today. Undaunted by the 102.6-degree heat, this morning’s volunteers served 150 households – 547 people – all of them seemingly in good spirits despite the temperature. To my amazement, I discovered that overseeing the Freebies table for two hours wasn’t a problem under the protection of a canopy. Then during evening hours, we served another 16 families. Six new families registered today, which tells us that the need persists in the Rivertowns. In all, it was another record-setting day in which we helped 333 adults, 214 children, and 56 seniors.

New this week was a bounty of breads, rolls, and pastries that Vera picked up over two nights from Panera Bread in Scarsdale. We are thrilled by the promise of a recurring donation from them. Today’s donations from MOM’S Organic Market included some beat-the-heat treats like dark chocolate tarts and cheddar jalapeño spread. Stop & Shop customers provided enough cereal to feed a small army. In our effort to expand our offerings and give people more choices, we continue to reach out to local businesses who may have leftovers to direct our way.

We continue to see new faces on Tuesday evenings when we pack boxes of shelf-stable goods and bags of produce for distribution the next day. Last night Michelle Peluso brought four Irvington neighbors to join the festivities. Their elbow grease was especially welcome as we prepared for the expected high attendance at the last pantry of the month, which is when we give out Stop & Shop gift cards.

Michelle Peluso and her Irvington neighbors pack boxes.

Not everyone takes the box of shelf-stable products but absolutely everybody wants an assortment of fresh produce. You can see why.

This week’s cornucopia

Nothing fazes our teen volunteers, including those shown here, not even assembling a shopping cart for the first time. It’s not exactly rocket science, but it does evoke Dad trying to put together toys on Christmas Eve. In the background, notice a finished product being put to good use.

Not exactly rocket science but assembling a shopping cart for the first time does present challenges.

That’s it for our update for this week. Y’all stay safe and cool!

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June 23, 2021

Greetings from the Food Pantry!

On this most beautiful day, our wonderful volunteers served 140 households totaling 502 individuals. This is a bit of an increase, and we are still seeing additional families registering with the pantry on a weekly basis.

Over the weekend, Ardsley Methodist Church and the Boy Scouts brought us two carloads of goods, several donation checks and gift cards.  The church continues to faithfully give to our pantry on a regular basis.  Although it’s a small congregation, they maximize their giving capacity beautifully. They brilliantly partnered with the Boy Scouts to do a food drive.  Check out this quick video of young gentlemen doing community service!

A shout out goes to Sara Sellitti who heads up the Springhurst Gardens for her contributing fresh greens and ensuring we benefit from surplus school lunches.

Sara Selitti and Robin Larkins

Not only do we want to nourish the bodies of our neighbors, but also their minds. We offer children’s books and some Spanish books for adult readers.

Co-Director Gretchen Skaggs’s daughter Ella and her friends Veronica and Molly

Fresh produce is one of the most important staples we offer, and most is purchased by the pantry.  But the Temple Beth Shalom has been providing one vegetable every week that will go in 150 bags for months now. Today it was avocados – thank you to Cantor Robin Joseph and the entire congregation!

We pride ourselves in trying to give our neighbors choice wherever possible. Here is a table of goods that they can pick from and our volunteers take note of what they really enjoy so that we can order more products to their liking in the future.

Volunteers Kimberly Janeway, Jean Lucasey and Bill Constant
Kimberly welcomes our guests each week

All of our volunteers bring their energy and goodwill to the pantry and are  respectful of honoring our neighbors in every interaction.  But one young man, Adam Galland, a high school senior, really shined today.  He impressed everyone with his perfect manners, helpfulness with our neighbors and the fact that he is bilingual really made a difference. It is so gratifying to see the next generation picking up the mantle of kindness.

Mary Anne Griggs, Adam Galland, Enzina Zaino

I leave you with one individual’s story.  This gentleman came to this country from Iran hoping to start a business in the States.  The timing could not have been worse for him, because the pandemic hit and his business dissolved.  He came to the pantry starting last October and he is now able to get clearance to return to his country. He was very gracious and thanked us profusely for helping him survive in a foreign country.  He will be returning to Iran with very positive feelings about the US, all due to how he was treated at the Pantry.  Goodwill and kindness can go very far.

Most needed items this week: Fresh produce, size 6 diapers and baby wipes, adult diapers

This week’s newsletter written by Co-Director, Vera Halpenny, who keeps our smallest clients in diapers.

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June 16, 2021

On this gorgeous, spring-like Wednesday we served 121 families which represents 418 people. This was fewer than we were expecting and we all hope that this is the start of a downward trend. However, we will stay prepared for any and all who come to us in need.

Each week, Temple Beth Shalom chooses one fresh produce item and then donates enough of it to feed all of our families. This week’s bounty was 130 bags of juicy grapes to be included in our produce bags. We are also starting to receive tasty donations from local community gardens including that of Springhurst Elementary School. If your community (or personal!) garden is harvesting more than you can handle, please consider dropping off your excess to us on Tuesday evenings at the church.

Our clients were treated to a delicious, organic meal today prepared by The Cookery and generously sponsored by Steve Tilly of Dobbs Ferry. We can’t tell you what a gift it is for our clients to be able to enjoy a restaurant quality meal.

It’s never too early to start teaching about giving back! These local philanthropists held food drives in their neighborhoods and delivered a car full of food and diapers to the Pantry. We gave them a tour of our set up and talked about the importance of supporting each other because you never know when it might be your turn to stand in line for free food.

Items most needed: size 6 diapers, low-sugar cereal, tuna, baby wipes, low-sodium soup.

This week’s newsletter was written by Pantry Co-Director Gretchen Skaggs and photos were provided by Ellen Crane Photography.

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June 9, 2021

It feels as if it’s nearly 90 degrees, if you consider the humidity, yet the number of people standing in line for food keeps growing this Wednesday morning. The line includes women and children, from newborns and shy toddlers to teens who help their mother carry the food to the car or to home. It’s crucial that pregnant women eat nutrient-dense foods, of course, and they too have stood in this line.  

In fact, more women seek help from the pantry than men, and lately 80 percent of our clients are female. 

That doesn’t surprise Irwin Garfinkel, co-director of the Center on Poverty & Social Policy at Columbia University. “Single mothers are more likely to be poor and economically insecure than the fathers of their children or married mothers and fathers,” he says. 

Another reason, adds Garfinkel, is that among poor and economically insecure parents, mothers are more likely than fathers to seek help from the government and voluntary agencies and groups, including food pantries. Why? These women are less deterred than men by the shame that accompanies asking for help.

Welcome! Volunteers prepared these bags of fresh produce, the first stop for pantry clients.

We Need Your Help 

For some, the pandemic may feel as if it’s over, or nearly over, with signs of life returning to normal, but our clients still struggle. This week we helped 130 families, or 469 people, and some weeks we provide food for as many as 160 families. The number of people who rely on food from our pantry isn’t dropping, yet donations are. 

To help our neighbors get the food they need, consider donating money (use this link) or Stop & Shop gift cards. 

We also welcome donations of unopened packaged food that hasn’t expired. You can leave it in the bin outside the church doors, and for bigger donations contact us at dobbsferrypantry@gmail.com. The items we need most are canned protein—tuna, salmon, and chicken—crunchy peanut butter, soup, rice, both brown and white, and low-sugar cereals such as Cheerios, Honey Nut Cheerios, corn flakes, Special K, and oatmeal. We always need diapers for our youngest clients, especially size 5 and 6. 

It Takes a Village 

Our volunteer staff goes all in every Wednesday morning. But to help feed the hundreds who depend on the pantry each week, Girl Scouts, high school students, civic organizations, and members of churches and synagogues buy and collect food then haul it to the South Presbyterian Church where the pantry is housed. This week we thank The Scarsdale Woman’s Club for their generosity, once again. 

If you’re thinking about organizing a food drive, keep in mind these tips:

Shoot us an email. We’re at dobbsferrypantry@gmail.com. Tell us when your food drive is and we’ll post the info on our site and we’ll work out a day and time for your group to drop off the food at the pantry. 

Think healthy. We aim to offer our clients healthy foods and foods that they like. We appreciate donations of beans, canned or dried, canned protein like tuna, low-sugar cereal, peanut butter, jelly, rice (brown and white), pasta, spaghetti sauce, low-sodium soups, nuts, granola bars, and cooking oil. 

• Note the no-nos. Please do not donate expired food, packaged food that’s been opened, food in glass containers, and home-baked items. 

• Consider donating household staples. Toilet paper, paper towels, laundry detergent, and dish detergent are necessities, and your donation helps our clients stretch their food budget further. 

Teens regularly volunteer at our pantry, adding energy and bringing their much-needed super powers, helping us to set up the pantry outdoors each week.

This week’s newsletter written by Kimberly Janeway, Pantry volunteer who lovingly writes WELCOME! in chalk on the sidewalk each week.

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June 1, 2021

“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
   “To talk of many things:
Of shoes—and ships—and sealing-wax—
   Of cabbages—and kings …”

“The Walrus and the Carpenter”

By Lewis Carol

But let’s begin instead with a tale of Beans and Bagels.

The food we distribute to our clients comes to our doors in two flavors: Fixed Inventory, things in boxes or sacks that we obtain from Feeding Westchester and other suppliers; and Variable Inventory, donations dropped off by caring individuals, thoughtful families, and community organizations and retail groceries that run food drives for the Pantry’s benefit.  

Fixed Inventory is carefully managed by our Inventory Team of Ellen Klein, and Suzanna and Roma Halatyn. The Variable Inventory, managed by Pantry veteran Eileen Quinlan, is unpredictable.  We are grateful for all that we receive and have a new system for ensuring its efficient distribution to our clients.

But once in a great while the unexpected crops up with the “Fixed” inventory. 

Because of the Memorial Day weekend, Ellen, Suze and Roma went to Feeding Westchester HQ to pick up the contents of the dry food pallet on offer Tuesday morning.  When they realized we had an excess of canned black beans, Roma reached out to Youth Mission of Life Food Pantry in White Plains, where Stella and her son PJ accepted our extra cases.

They kindly offered their excess bagels (130!) in exchange and thanks to Roma’s food network connections the community barter system benefited everyone! 

* * *

Tuesday Boxing Comes to Fellowship Hall!

Anyone buying lots of canned food knows by experience not to put too much of it in a paper bag.

To provide clients with a week’s worth of shelf-stable food begins with a box: strong, right-sized and complete with a handle.  Among the invaluable life skills Pantry volunteers acquire is how to properly assemble, tape and stack boxes clients can get home without the bottom falling out.  

Ellen Klein leads Tuesday Night box bandits Susan Ginsberg, Barry Siegel and Donna Assumma in box assembly.  Others fill the boxes while still others close, affix handles and move the boxes.  
Volunteers Bijal Das, Kristy Fitzgerald and Donna Assumma (L-R) cover the arc of nutrition with a mix of frozen meat from Feeding Westchester and organic dairy products from Mom’s Organic Grocery.

*   *   *

My name (in this state anyway) is Duke Coffey.  I’m the guy with the tool box and the mop.  I want to close this blog posting by describing the incredible bench strength we have within the Food Pantry by citing two people who exemplify why our motto is “Get It Done.”

The Dobbs Ferry Food Pantry has operated under the roof of South Presbyterian Church for 10 years, and we have always been grateful for their hospitality and support.  When the Covid-19 Pandemic ignited in New York last year, live attendance at religious services were canceled, and our operations were moved from Fellowship Hall into the Church’s Sanctuary and Music Room.  

While our lines are still long, things appear to be getting better and services at churches, synagogues and mosques are opening with masks and distancing.  South Presbyterian is still – first and foremost – a house of worship.  This Sunday, June 6, services were scheduled to resume for the first time in over a year.  

Knowing this day would come, we began planning our exit.  I was asked to find a way to stuff 15 pounds into a 5-pound bag and move all our inventory and equipment into the Music Room. Being on the wrong side of 72, I asked specifically for and got the assistance of two ingenious volunteers – Suzanna Halatyn, who is in charge of Inventory, and Suzy Barnett, of co-head of FP’s Delivery operation.  The two possess an uncanny ability not only for finding practical solutions to difficult problems but have the drive to make them happen.  All I needed to do was get them the equipment they needed and then stay out of their way.

Inventory Chief Suze Halatyn (L) and Suzy Barnett, co-chief of FP Deliveries; both possessed of the requisite brains and brawn behind FP’s exit from the Sanctuary in time for the resumption of religious services on 6 June 2021.

Another extraordinary member of the team that keeps the Food Pantry going no matter what the obstacles is Sharon Bilman (left, below), who also exemplifies the “Get It Done” spirit of our corps of volunteers.  There is not a thing Sharon can’t handle.

Sharon kindly set up a table of free books for our clients to take this week.

Items most needed this week: Size 4 and size 6 diapers (we had to purchase diapers for the first time this week!) and baby wipes; women’s sanitary napkins (pads); adult diapers.

This week’s newsletter was written by the guy who can fix anything, Duke Coffey.

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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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