Mobile Foodshare serves hundreds in East Hartford

By Frances Taylor - Staff Writer
East Hartford - posted Wed., Mar. 9, 2011
About 150 people showed up on a blustery day to meet the Mobile Foodshare truck. Photos by Frances Taylor.
About 150 people showed up on a blustery day to meet the Mobile Foodshare truck. Photos by Frances Taylor.

It’s a blustery March day, and the Mobile Foodshare truck isn’t due for another hour. But cars are slowly driving up and people are already beginning to line up in the parking lot of St. Isaac Jogues Church.There are elderly men and women, some in motorized wheelchairs, women with small children.About 200 people come to this site during the 45 minutes that the truck is stationed there.

Foodshare is a non-profit regional food bank that distributes food across the state to a network of 350 programs such as soup kitchens and food pantries. Since 2009, the Mobile Foodshare program has been distributing food in 19 towns in the Hartford area. In 2010, Mobile Foodshare distributed 298,381 pounds of food to a total of 12,182 individuals. The average attendance per distribution was 143 individuals, said Kai Lounden, agency representative for Foodshare.

Residents on limited incomes who have trouble buying enough food to feed their families are eligible to receive assistance from the program. In East Hartford, Mobile Foodshare delivers food twice a month in four locations – Hockanum Park, Veteran’s Terrace, St. John’s Episcopal Church and St. Isaac Jogues in Mayberry Village. The truck carries a variety of fresh produce like seasonal fruits and vegetables, as well as staples like bread and juice.

Foodshare selects its sites using census data that tracks poverty level, and seeks partners to work with in those areas. "The ongoing and tenacious commitment of Mobile host organizations and their volunteers is what makes this program possible,'' Loundon said.

A woman named Hillary, who declined to give her last name, was one of the first in line to wait for the truck on March 7. “I come when the truck comes here every other week,” she said.

Hillary said she has two children, one of them a daughter who has two children herself. She works part-time as a nurse’s aide, and she does not receive food stamps. “It definitely helps… we get potatoes, vegetables, juices and fruits,” Hillary said.

Tracy Dignone is a volunteer for program who helps distribute the food when the truck comes. Dignone said there is much need among the people he sees who have been affected by the economy.“There are no jobs out there for people,” he said.“I don’t think enough is being done to help out the people who are here.”

It’s not easy to for people to acknowledge to others that they are short on food and need help. “We don’t require any paper work or ask anyone to prove anything. All they have to do is show up,” said Bill Knose, the coordinator of the St. Isaac Jogues site for Mobile Foodshare. Recipients help the project keep track of how much food is distributed by signing a form when they receive their food.

The number of families using the truck has risen along with the downturn in the economy. “When I first started here, we’d have about a 100 to 150 people. Now we are over 200 people most of the time,” Knose added. 

St. Isaac Jogues is part of an alliance of places of worship and community organizations that receives surplus food donated by supermarkets like Shoprite and Stop & Shop, and programs like Second Harvest. The East Hartford Department of Social Services coordinates two of the Mobile Foodshare sites.

Knose has been a volunteer for nine years with the food pantry.After his retirement, he became interested in feeding the hungry after reading about the case of a young man who was homeless and eventually starved on the streets. “I just decided I would do something to be sure that never happened to anyone again,” he said.

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