FALMOUTH — When the town’s food pantry started, it was a small operation behind Town Hall with two rooms and a hallway.
But in the face of ever-increasing demand, the pantry has nearly doubled in size to accommodate the needs of families from Falmouth and beyond.
Manager Nancy Lightbody said the pantry reopened on June 1 after a brief hiatus for renovation and refurbishing. The nonprofit organization expanded into space provided by the town.
“There’s a huge need (for this expansion),” Lightbody said. “We serve over 300 families a month.”
The Falmouth Food Pantry served more than 90,000 meals in 2014, a 24 percent increase from the previous year; Lightbody said the annual percentage increase has been about the same every year. Besides Falmouth, the pantry serves families from Portland, Westbrook and Cumberland.
Clients can collect food twice a month from the pantry, which is open eight days a month according to a schedule posted online (Portland clients are limited to once a month). The amount of goods clients receive depends on family size. Lightbody said more than 30 percent of Falmouth clients are senior citizens.
The pantry now has four rooms, including a waiting room with benches for clients, who must check in and then be shown around by a volunteer.
Food storage is divided between the other three rooms, with one used for special items not usually donated, which have to be purchased using cash donations. These items, which also require special client eligibility, include things like dish soap, laundry detergent, cooking oil and fresh milk.
A large back room contains cereals and pastas, as well as baked goods from Hannaford, Wal-Mart and Mr. Bagel. It also has toiletry items like tooth brushes and tooth paste.
“We never used to be able to put it all together,” Lightbody said. “It’s really a blessing.”
A final room, which Lightbody said “used to hold everything,” is used mainly for canned items, many of which come from the state’s Emergency Food Assistance Program. A new refrigerator and freezer are also in this room, which Lightbody said will allow the pantry to keep produce longer.
“We used to have to give (expired produce) to the cows or to compost,” Lightbody said, because the fruits and vegetables would spoil quickly. Now with the refrigerator, produce can be held longer, and meat can be kept in the freezer.
Renovations also included replacing carpets with new flooring, painting the walls, and installing new lights.
The renovations cost approximately $50,000. More than $39,000 came from a grant from the Community Development Block Grant program through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. In April 0f 2014, the Town Council unanimously approved contributing $10,800 from unassigned funds.
There will be a formal reopening ceremony on June 8 from 5:30-7 p.m. And although all the renovations will be complete by then, Lightbody said she’s sure clients will, politely, let them know what still needs fixing.
“We always learn from them,” she said.
One of the well-stocked walls of the refurbished and expanded Falmouth Food Pantry, behind Town Hall at 271 Falmouth Road.