continued The race is the major fundraiser for the pantry, helping to meet its annual budget of $65,000. Hedrick said the pantry overshot that budget last year by $2,000.
“Last year we paid out $67,000 to the Food Bank of Central New York. Heaven knows what it’s going to be this year,” she said. “Every month, I’m registering eight to 10 new families. It’s really straining our budget. It’s horrible. It’s unbelievable. How can we keep doing this? I used to get one or two. Now it’s eight to 10 every single month. It’s really a stretch.”
Why are so many families struggling? The reason is simple: the economy.
“Most families, more than three-quarters of them work, but they just don’t make enough money,” Hedrick said. “The jobs they have are low-income. They don’t make enough to pay for health care and their homes and food. It’s just not enough. So they come to us for food.”
Fortunately, the food pantry can save some money by purchasing food in bulk from the Food Bank of Central New York, according to Carol Benedict, who also works with the food pantry.
“We can buy better than the average consumer,” Benedict said. “We get a better deal when we buy through the Food Bank of Central New York. Because we’re affiliated with them, we can get things like USDA surplus meat and dairy products, which is huge. For every one person that comes in, we get $15 in USDA surplus food. By the time we follow the federal guidelines, that $40 in groceries, plus other stuff. That’s a wonderful thing. That’s what turns us into an important community service.”
Benedict said one of the reasons the Bridgeport Food Pantry is growing is because the Food Bank is referring families to them.
“They send people to us because they know we have food here,” she said.