Bristol food shelf makes use of bigger pantry

BRISTOL — The Have A Heart Food Shelf has had a great holiday season so far, in no small part due to a recent upgrade that expanded the Bristol nonprofit’s storage space and a successful food drive sponsored by area fire department.
“It’s filling right up,” said food shelf director Rebecca Price.
In October, crews finished a renovation of St. Ambrose Catholic Church in Bristol, which included the expansion of the pantry and upgrades to the kitchen. The food shelf operates out of the basement of the West Street church.
Price said the expanded pantry allows the food shelf to keep track of donations as they come in.
“We’re more organized and we can keep a better track on rotating our stock,” Price said. “The new space is great for that.”
The food shelf serves about 70 families, mostly in northeast Addison County. Price said over the weekend preceding Thanksgiving, the food shelf gave away 92 turkey baskets, about the same number as in recent years.
She said donations poured in ahead of Thanksgiving thanks to food drives sponsored by the Bristol Elementary School, Mount Abraham Union Middle/High School, Lincoln United Church, Middlebury Co-operative Insurance and other organizations.
Price also said a food drive hosted by the five-town area fire departments collected about 2,000 pounds of food. That drive, coupled with another run by the Bristol Post Office in the spring are the two largest annual donations to Have A Heart, Price said.
Former Bristol Fire Department Chief Mark Bouvier, who organized the firehouse drive, said firefighters and their helpers collected an amount of food similar to past drives, but saw a jump in cash donations. Last year, firefighters collected $377 in cash donations. This year, that figure came in at $1,068.
Bouvier said a quarter of that sum came from employees of the National Bank of Middlebury.
Bouvier started the food drive in 2007 after stepping down after 18 years as chief. Initially, just Bristol firefighters participated. Bouvier said he always envisioned expanding the drive to the departments in New Haven, Starksboro, Lincoln and Monkton, but wanted to popularize the event first.
“I didn’t want to reach out to the other departments until there was a little bit of history and it was something we could be successful at,” he said.
Bouvier credited the help of the other departments for raising a record amount of money for the food shelf this year.
“There’s no doubt the inclusion of the other four departments bolstered our end results,” he said.
Bouvier plans to include the other four fire departments in future food drives, and pledged to focus more on publicizing the event more, by reaching out to the Independent and posting on Front Porch Forum.
The food shelf is sustained only by the generosity of Addison County residents, churches and businesses, Price said. Anyone living in the five-town area is eligible to receive food.
“Any amount of food or money helps,” Price said. “We don’t turn anyone away because no one should be hungry.”
Have A Heart accepts both perishable and non-perishable food items (because the food shelf dispenses more toward the end of each month, foods like vegetables should be dropped off closer to then). Price said the food shelf is looking to buy a larger freezer. A local resident also offered recently to donate a refrigerator.
Now that Thanksgiving has come and gone, Price said Have A Heart is gearing up for the rest of the holiday season, when it distributes hams for Christmas.
Residents can drop off food directly to the food shelf, in the basement of St. Ambrose, or cut a check to the organization.

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