Bedford Lions to sponsor community food pantry

The Bedford Lions Club has announced plans to sponsor a community food pantry in Bedford.

Mike Sills of the BLC said that "a food pantry differs from a food kitchen in that meals are not served and food is distributed in a manner similar to a grocery store."

An ad hoc committee, consisting of representatives from the Bedford Presbyterian Church, Manchester Seventh-day Adventist Church, New Hope Christian Fellowship Church, Saint Elizabeth Seton Church and Trinity Life Community Foursquare Church, school district officials, private businesses and interested residents, has been studying the issue for the past six months and determined that there is a real need for this type of facility in Bedford.

George Reese, chairman of the Ad Hoc Bedford Community Food Pantry Committee, said their group has determined that more than 160 families currently qualify for the "free school lunch" program; nearly 350 adults and children qualify for food stamps and more than 1,200 adults and children qualify for Medicaid.

The Lions Club in Duxbury, Mass., currently operates a food pantry. Duxbury is a town with similar demographics as Bedford’s and the Lions there are serving between 250-300 families on a monthly basis since beginning the program in 2012. Currently, people and families under financial stress in Bedford have a difficult time finding food pantries since most are geared to serve their own residents.

Sills pointed out that these figures don’t account for the "suddenly unemployed" through down-sizing and layoffs.

"I, myself have been unemployed several times during my engineering career. One week you’re comfortably providing for your family and the next you’re trying to figure it all out on less than $500 per week. I could have used a food pantry back then to help stretch those few dollars," Sills said.

The Lions Club has set up a four-person implementation group and is searching the town for a permanent site for the BCFP.

"To serve 300 families per week continuously we will need to find a space of over 1,000 sqaure feet and have a budget for purchasing food when it is in short supply and for supplies and equipment for the pantry itself," Sills said.

Reese, who is serving as the interim director for the pantry, noted that a temporary food pantry would be needed until a permanent site is found. Reese is currently discussing the use of facilities at the Bedford Presbyterian Church, a church at which he is a member. The Presbyterian Church is well-suited to serve this interim need since it already serves 250 families at Thanksgiving, and also provides regular meals for the Caregiver program and the New Horizons Food Kitchen.

"The interim pantry will be called ‘The Food Pantry at the Presbyterian Church’," Reese said.

Reese added that they are trying to get the logistics in place to set up facilities and find contributing individuals and organizations like the Boy Scouts to supply food.

Sills and Reese emphasized that this will be a whole-town community effort, which can only succeed if everyone pitches in, even just a little. Information on how to volunteer, donate food or organize a food drive can be found at the Presbyterian Church website, bedfordpresbyterian.org. Contact Mike Sills at 472-5516 or George Reese at 472-4920 for more information on getting involved.