With record numbers of Granite Staters on unemployment and food insecure children missing out on two school meals a day, local food banks are seeing their demand double and are putting out an urgent plea for cash donations.
"We served double the amount of people this week over last," said Wakefield Food Pantry registrar Elaine Meagher. "Given the pandemic and recent increase in New Hampshire unemployment, we expect a continued rise in demand for the foreseeable future."
Exacerbating the problem is the closure of local churches, an important weekly avenue of collections, she noted. Private donations have also suddenly dried up.
"With New Hampshire schools closed, hunger is especially hitting our community children hard," a statement from WFP said earlier this week.
WFP Operations Manager Janet Miller said they are making special efforts to keep everyone safe while still serving those in need.
A retired nurse, Miller said WFP has significantly modified their operations, preparation and delivery practices to minimize the risks to all during the COVID-19 outbreak.
"We've instituted more robust WFP cleaning and sanitation," Miller said. "Recipients are also very accepting of the need to do our new curbside or direct-to-vehicle delivery and are grateful for our efforts."
Given the expected increases in demand in the coming weeks and months, the Wakefield Food Pantry and the Share Fund, which supports Gerry's Food Pantry in Rochester, are putting out a special plea to all for food and especially cash donations.
Gerry's Food Pantry officials were not available for immediate comment as their offices and thrift shop at the Rochester Community Center are currently closed.
To make a donation to the Share Fund mail a check to Share Fund, 150 Wakefield St., Suite 14, Rochester, N.H. 03867 or go to https://www.sharefund.org/ and click on the "Donate" button.
To make a donation to the Wakefield Food Pantry mail a check to Wakefield Food Pantry, PO Box 426, Sanbornville, NH 03872.
Another simple ongoing way to help is through Amazon on-line shopping - simply choose the Wakefield Food Pantry or Share Fund at the smile.amazon.com program.
For those needing help in Rochester, Gerry's Food Pantry will be receiving clients at the Rochester Community Center on Friday from 1-3 p.m. Existing clients must bring their photo ID. New clients should call ahead at 603.330.3468.
Maureen Gillum contributed to this report