Food pantries see slight drop in demand, keep serving Fairfield County

LANCASTER — Food is one of the most important resources for everyday life, and sometimes the struggle to find enough for your family or yourself is something that can be overlooked. As the coronavirus pandemic continues, that struggle continues to be pronounced.

According to the Fairfield County Hunger Coalition, the programs designed to help people get the food they need were working as intended, with fewer referrals to area food pantries in 2021.

While some food pantries and some food distribution programs reported helping fewer clients through 2021, some still had the same volume of food distributed. Others saw demographics of clients shift, helping more households without children in them, than those with them.

According to the notes from the Jan. 5 meeting of the Hunger Coalition, 2-1-1 reported a 25% decrease in calls and referrals in 2021 compared to 2020. There was a 50% decrease in food referrals, but mental health referrals remained about the same.

Fairfield County 2-1-1 Executive Director Jeannette Curtis said she is proud of the food banks and pantries in Fairfield County, and how they worked to remain open and available to continue to help people since the beginning of the pandemic.

Brian Dicken, a volunteer with Lancaster-Fairfield Community Action Agency, packs a shopping cart for a food pantry client Thursday, Jan. 27. The food pantry reported the coronavirus pandemic disrupted its selection of pre-pandemic volunteers.

“At the start of the shutdown, a lot of food pantries outside of our county closed their doors, but in Fairfield County, they came together and worked out how to figure out how to continue to serve those in need while staying safe,” Curtis said. “They changed their models, no one closed.”

“We expected a surge of referrals or requests once COVID-19 hit, but we’ve had the opposite because of food and income assistance programs, which just means they’re working properly.”