MIDDLETOWN - The Middletown community is coming together to support residents when they need it most.
With many people struggling financially during the coronavirus crisis, the City of Middletown, the Guild at St. Margaret’s Soup Kitchen and Cornell Cooperative Extension are among the agencies contributing tens of thousands of dollars worth of grants and donations to increase soup kitchen meal capacity and create two new food pantries in the city.
“We have people coming in, saying they’ve worked their whole life, and they never thought they’d be in this position,” said Phyllis Guardino, director of the soup kitchen. “We’re all dealing with that now, and we’re going to get through it.”
The soup kitchen, located at 12 Depot St., will increase the number of meals volunteers produce daily from about 3,000 to more than 5,100 a month, Guardino said. That comes with an added $3,000 expense per month to feed an additional 60-100 people a day for lunch and dinner.
The organization will also open a food pantry to 50 people for the next six months, Guardino said, which will cost about $22,000 total.
The City of Middletown has operated a free grocery run for seniors for the last month. Within the last week, it has expanded into a food pantry that will also serve families with a financial need due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to Nicole Psarakis, Middletown recreation program coordinator. They have accumulated more than $11,000 in grants and donations toward the project.
“We really want to be able to reach those families who have a need,” Psakaris said.
The two food pantry programs and the increased soup kitchen meals will accommodate new demand as many Middletown residents deal with furloughs and layoffs.
“I can’t stress this enough, how we are all sprinting to make sure people get food,” said Stiles Najac, food security community liaison for CCE, which has also been delivering to more than 60 people in both Orange and Sullivan counties who are food insecure due to the pandemic.
Middletown Mayor Joseph DeStefano, along with other city officials, picked up 15 grocery packages, worth about $9 each, from Garcia Supermarket on North Street on Wednesday. The supplies, including bread, eggs, juice and toilet paper, were delivered to those in need by city police officers later in the day.
Supermarkets, including Garcia’s, and area residents have dipped into their pockets to help by donating anything from money to peanut butter to entire knapsacks full of supplies.
An average family bag, which would include extra food and items like diapers or wipes and that the city will soon start delivering, is expected to cost about $15.
“If people want to sponsor a person or a family, that would be the number,” DeStefano said.
The soup kitchen is allowing anyone to drop by and pick up a bag filled with a lunch and dinner at 11 a.m. Monday through Saturday and 3 p.m. Sundays.
A phone number for its food pantry has not yet been finalized. The kitchen will announce where to call to sign up to receive a three-day supply of food by appointment.
The city’s food pantry program is on a referral basis, but if anyone has a need, they can call city hall to inquire.