Danbury pantry celebrates 25 years, feeds hundreds

Hundreds of people received food for Christmas on Monday from Daily Bread/Rebecca Newman - CreedibleDANBURY – On Monday, Daily Bread Food Pantry Coordinator Debbie Christiana watched as hundreds of people streamed into the building to pick up enough free food to cook up a hearty Christmas dinner.

More than 350 people took advantage of the pantry’s giveaway, which was a Christmastime record for Daily Bread.

“The economy has a lot to do with it,” Christiana said. “We’re seeing a lot of new people, as well as a lot of people who haven’t been here in three or four years, and are having to come back.”

Daily Bread serves about 800 families a week. That’s double its usual numbers.

The pantry celebrated its 25th anniversary this year, which Christiana described as a double-edged sword.

“I feel bad that this many people need something. On the other hand, I’m glad we’re here and are able to help them,” she said. “Over the past 25 years it’s gotten busier and busier. It’s not that we want to close our doors, but if we did, that would mean the need would not be here.”

The pantry began in 1984 when St. James’ Episcopal Church, St. Paul’s Lutheran Church and St. Gregory’s Roman Catholic Church responded to the community’s hungry by providing groceries. Today the ecumenical pantry works with numerous organizations and individuals to help those in need.

In the past, Christiana and her staff would make monthly visits to the Waterbury Food Bank to pick up food for the Danbury pantry. Now to keep up with the demand, they go every other week and visit grocery stores in-between, where they are able to purchase food at-cost.

Christiana said the customers, which are allowed to get free groceries from the pantry once a month, now have more food choices available to them, including fresh produce and meats.

That’s thanks in part to St. James’, where Daily Bread is housed. In celebration of the pantry’s 25th anniversary, the congregation planted a garden for the organization. Daily Bread Board of Directors President Susan Moran said this year clients received fresh tomatoes, squash, cilantro and other healthy veggies.

Moran said Daily Bread is a crucial resource to Danbury’s “working poor” because the organization assists the town’s social services.

“We’re a middle-man for food,” she said.

The Daily Bread pantry, at 25 West St., also received a small facelift as part of its milestone anniversary, as well as more shelves, more products, and more marketing tools including brochures and a Web site, www.thedailybreadofdanbury.com.

The pantry is seeking monetary and food donations as well as volunteers, particularly Spanish-speaking individuals. Donations can be dropped off at the store during operation hours, which are Mondays and Fridays from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Or, other arrangements can be made by calling (203) 748-3561.

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