Latest free food pantry aids in Shelton’s battle against food insecurity

SHELTON — Generosity is spreading in the city.

Only weeks after St. Paul’s Church installed its Blessings Box outside its building, Church of the Good Shepherd off Coram Avenue is readying to install its own food pantry box to aid those suffering from food insecurity.

“Wages aren’t keeping up with inflation … making it harder for so many folks in our community to get by,” said Matt McGee, one of the organizers of this food pantry box. “The Little Pantry movement is just one small way to help lessen the financial burden we’re all feeling.”

Little Free Pantry at the Church of the Good Shepherd joins two other pantries — the Blessing Box at Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church in Huntington on the Green and the Blessing Box at the United Methodist Church on Long Hill Avenue. Shelton will have three strategically located pantries for immediate food needs: north, south and east.

“While the intention of this pantry is to help those in need, I really hope everyone feels comfortable stopping by, donating what they can, and taking some things for themselves, too,” McGee said.

“Maybe there’s a certain food or spice in there that you’ve never tried before, and you would like to try it before you go out and purchase it,” McGee added. “Helping each other, regardless of need, shouldn’t have a stigma attached to it.”

The church hosted a “Day of Action” last Sunday, during which more than two dozen people joined forces to begin construction of the food pantry box. A grand opening is planned for April 16 at 10 a.m.

Brian Witalis, senior warden at the Church of the Good Shepherd, said while downtown Shelton is “nicer than some places. It is not the most economically sound place, and food is important to all.

“If we can help just a little bit maybe some kids will do better in school and make better opportunities for their future. Or someone can pay their bills and still be able to eat,” Witalis said. “If the past couple years have taught us anything it’s there are a lot of us that are one lost job away from going hungry.”

Witalis said he is proud to see how this project has brought together people that didn’t know each other, from different backgrounds and ideologies, to achieve a common goal to help people they don’t know.

“It was great to see everyone working together laughing and having a good time as we decorated the pantry and cleaned up the property to get ready for our grand opening,” he added.

Organizers are looking for other area groups to hold food drives to keep the box consistently full. The pantry will also have a Facebook page and be registered at the “Little Free Food Pantry” website which gives locations of free food pantries.

McGee said he had been aware of the national Little Free Pantry movement for some time and had been involved in food insecurity work down in Bridgeport.

And in his quest to start a pantry box, he came across the one in front of St. Paul’s Church and reached out to one of its organizers, Jody Maier.

“The Blessings Box at St Paul’s is being well-used by the community and a sign that there is a need to help families and individuals supplement their food budgets with free food from the community,” Maier said.

“Free food pantries are a safety net for those families and individuals who fall through the cracks in traditional government programs,” she added.

With that in mind, Maier was more than happy to join the committee — including McGee, Thomas Mariconda, Brian Witalis, Jessica Krentzman, Linda Goodman, and Mary Dorland — charged with building and installing a Little Free Pantry at Good Shepherd.

“The Little Free Pantries and Blessing Boxes are so very important in today’s world because of the safety net they provide for people who need assistance but do not meet government guidelines or who are too ashamed or afraid to admit that they need help,” Maier said.

“The Little Free Pantries and Blessing Boxes are non-judgmental community offerings that serve to create caring, connected communities,” she added. “The people who frequent Little Free Pantries and Blessing Boxes may not know their neighbors who donate food, but they do know that someone cares about them enough to feed them when they are hungry.”

brian.gioiele@hearstmediact.com