COVID’s effects continue to place heavy burden on food pantry

Dutchess Outreach Exec. Director Renee Fillette (foreground) restocking the pantry with help from volunteers.

POUGHKEEPSIE – A community food pantry that provides an array of services to those in need is still feeling the effects of the COVID pandemic.  Dutchess Outreach at the Family Partnership Center has seen a substantial increase in the number of people seeking assistance compared to pre-pandemic statistics and are seeking assistance.

Dutchess Outreach Executive Director Renee Fillette told Mid-Hudson News that the non-profit agency that operates a food pantry, the Lunch Box which provides free hot meals, a farm market, and emergency relief has seen an increase of 200 percent in the number of people they assist compared to the pre-pandemic client base.

Dutchess Outreach Executive Director Renee Fillette.

“Every month the numbers continue to rise,” Fillette said.  The food pantry alone is currently serving approximately 1,000 individuals a month.  When factoring in clients seeking food for an entire family, the number rises to 4,000 people per month, on average.

The organization has been recognized by city, county, and state leaders for its efforts during the pandemic but Fillette noted that the increased number of clients is placing a strain on Dutchess Outreach.  “We have been forced to increase our food purchases of both perishable and non-perishable food items by 75 percent to keep up with the increase in the number of people in need.”

“We need volunteers to help us in a variety of roles and we also need folks to do food drives in their communities – we need targeted food drives and ask that interested individuals and organizations contact our office for the specifics,” she said. “Some days we need donations of peanut butter and jelly, other days it might be spices or cooking oil, so we need to coordinate with willing participants to hold specific food drives.”

Dutchess Outreach Assistant Executive Director Tara Whalen echoed Fillette’s call for volunteers while re-stocking the shelves with 20,000 pounds of food that arrived on Monday.  “Renee is here helping to stock, I am helping to unload the truck with a few volunteers, but many hands make quick work, and we need people that are willing to help.  Volunteers can sign up to help with unloading trucks, serving food in the Lunch Box, or assisting in our other programs – we just really need the help so we can continue to meet the needs of the people we serve.”

Fillette said interested volunteers can fill out an application on the website and a staff member will work with the applicant to find a role for them.  The application can be found here.

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