What types of volunteers are you looking for?

What types of volunteers are you looking for?

We love it when young people come to volunteer and work with us.  We welcome their enthusiasm and their ideas about how we can build solutions to the problems that result in Food Insecurity.  The world we live in will become theirs and we all need to work together while we can so the next generation doesn't have to make the same mistakes we made and our parents made before us. 

Are there predominately certain groups of people who come?

Are there predominately certain groups of people who come?

We have quite a diverse group with growing numbers of women and children as well as families and seniors.  Some will come on days when they cannot get work while others will come ever day to have a meal and chat with friends.  We are a community gathering place first and a source of food second.  When people see their friends and neighbors here, they feel comfortable and safe. 

What keeps people from coming?

What keeps people from coming?

Fear is the main obstacle.  There are many sources of fear but the best way to counter it is with love and kindness.  Word travels fast and it is a lot better to have our clients tell others this is a safe and good place to come than to have people spread fear.  

What are the stereotypes or preconceived notions that these people face? Do you think that being in Port Chester has different stereotypes than elsewhere?

What are the stereotypes or preconceived notions that these people face? Do you think that being in Port Chester has different stereotypes than elsewhere?

One of the questions I ask students who come to volunteer for community service credits is "What does a homeless person look like?"

I get a wide variety of answers that are rooted in stereotypes and preconceptions.  They aren't necessarily wrong but instead are incomplete.  After the students serve meals or help people shop in the pantry I ask them another question.  "Which of the people they helped are homeless?"  Most have no idea.  

I don't think Port Chester, which is my home, is any different from anywhere else.  Wherever we encounter people who are facing different situations than we are, we have misconceptions and even fear.  The more people we can get to come and spend time with us, the more we will be able to breakdown the walls that separate us.

Caritas is located in Port Chester, a perceived less-funded area, do you think that this pantry faces different struggles than other pantries in well funded areas?

Caritas is located in Port Chester, a perceived less-funded area, do you think that this pantry faces different struggles than other pantries in well funded areas?

Funding is a nonstop business.  It requires actively engaging people in the work of serving others not just with their checkbooks but with their time and involvement.  We are blessed to have a growing network of individuals who want to make a difference and they make it work.  All pantries face the same financial difficulties but it takes more than handing out food to make a pantry or kitchen work.  It takes love and care.  If you bring the right people together with the right attitude and desire to help, the money and support will follow.  

Do you think the pantry system as a whole is proactively helping people end food insecurity? Do you have any solutions?

Do you think the pantry system as a whole is proactively helping people end food insecurity? Do you have any solutions?

It is clear that the pantry system has an impact on the need of the population it serves, but a lasting solution will take a concerted effort with a real desire to end hunger.  

We believe serving food is half the equation.  Helping people regain their self esteem and self confidence, fostering hope and believing they can make their lives better will to a long way toward helping people get out of poverty and dependence.  We want to see that in our lifetime.

What is the biggest struggle for the pantry?

What is the biggest struggle for the pantry?

The biggest struggle is having enough space to store what we acquire.  When we have an opportunity to accept a large donation of fresh produce for example, we have to arrange to distribute it quickly because we don't have the means to keep it safe and fresh.

Does Caritas struggle with having enough resources? Or is the pantry well supplied? Where does the food come from?

Does Caritas struggle with having enough resources? Or is the pantry well supplied? Where does the food come from?

We make a point of keeping our pantry and kitchen well supplied but there are times when we have trouble sourcing some items.  Cooking oil is a good example of something that everyone needs and yet we can't always get enough at a reasonable price.  

We buy most of what we distribute either through the Food Bank or from restaurant suppliers or big box stores.  We also have a network of generous donors and sponsors who hold food drives and collect donations for us. 

Volunteers are another resource we need and we have a wonderful network of folks who spend from one to ten days per month helping us. 

Is there governmental support for Caritas?

Is there governmental support for Caritas?

The government does not directly support us.  We are a 501(c)3 organization that is supported by individuals, organizations and through awarded grants, some of which are offered by government agencies.  

How does Caritas work to end food insecurity?

How does Caritas work to end food insecurity?

Food Insecurity is not just about the quantity of food people have access to, but the nutritional value as well.  Having access to poor quality food is as bad if not worse than having little access to any food.  At car Caritas we provide a complete dinner at lunchtime Monday through Friday which consists of protein, starch, vegetables, soup and a dessert.  We try to include fruit if available and also provide some take-out meal for people to have later on if they desire it.  In addition we have a Choice Pantry where people can select canned and dry goods, plus fresh vegetables, frozen meats and dairy products.  We follow the Food Bank's guidelines for quantities of each category based on family size, with the objective of providing up to 9 meals per person per month.  It is a supplement and not the only source of food they have. 

How difficult is it for people in need to use the resources at Caritas?

How difficult is it for people in need to use the resources at Caritas?

People who come for a meal just need to sign in.  This is how they indicate their need.  All are treated with utmost respect, more like a community of neighbors gathering together to help each other out.  To register for the pantry, one needs to provide some basic and confidential information about their situation and location.   They can register on the day they come for the pantry.