There is probably no other time of year when food is more on our minds than Thanksgiving. Turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, stuffing, gravy, cranberries, cakes and pies fill long tables as families across the country reunite for an annual tradition that is very much centered around the shared enjoyment of good food. There is little enjoyment to be shared for those who find themselves without food. That need is not something only found “elsewhere.” It includes families right here in Philipstown. Thankfully, there is a local organization that week-in and week-out provides food for those who need it: The Philipstown Food Pantry operated by the First Presbyterian Church of Cold Spring.
There are about 50 Philipstown families registered with the Food Pantry. On most Saturdays it serves more than 20 families but at Thanksgiving that number doubles. Families from Philipstown who need food can pick up groceries from 9:00 until 10:00 each Saturday morning at the Presbyterian Church located at 10 Academy Street. Basic cleaning supplies are also made available and there is no fee. “The people who come here are generally the working poor. Sometimes they have two or three jobs. They pay their bills – but food is the last thing on their list,” said Pastor Leslie Mott.
The Food Pantry has been in operation for 30 years. Andrea Bach, who serves as coordinator, said its beginnings were pretty simple. “Way back, the pastor’s wife announced in church that there were local families in need of food and asked for donations.” Initially food was delivered to people’s homes. Today the Food Pantry relies upon 20-25 volunteers and recently has advertised for more help. Some volunteers come on Saturday mornings from 8:30 to 10:30 to help set up and later to store food that is not distributed. Others do shopping on behalf of the Pantry, pick up groceries at the Hudson Valley Food Bank in Cornwall or organize food drives. Some even do gardening. This year, the Inspiration Garden, was undertaken by Tess Dul as a Gold Award Project, the highest award given in Girl Scouts. Dul’s green thumb helped produce fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, peppers and basil that were very well received by Pantry patrons.
Karen Tangen, Deacon Representative for the Food Pantry knows first hand why people choose to volunteer. “It’s very rewarding. I was one of 11 children. I know what it is to be in need.” She also thinks that those who donate food have a very basic motivation for doing so. “I think it’s out of gratitude. Many people have so much at Thanksgiving. They feel blessed and want to give to others.” Bach agrees. “I’ve been in situations when things have been tight. Now I can give back.” She said that over time she has gotten to know the people who rely on the Pantry. “You get to know the mothers. You get to know what cereal the kids like. We try to meet diet needs for vegetarians, people with allergies or diabetes. We also try to provide low sodium foods.”
The backbone of the Pantry is the Philipstown community. Most donated food comes from area residents. Numerous local businesses and organizations also contribute including: Foodtown, Super Shop ‘n Stop, The Lions Club, Girls Scouts, Boy Scouts, the Post Office, Haldane School, Glynwood, Philipstown Farm Market, Grey Printing, Garrison Fish and Game Club, foundations, local volunteer fire departments, ambulance corps, and all of the area’s other churches. Shoppers at Foodtown often contribute their Green Points and some customers donate their coupon for a free turkey. This year an anonymous donor has pledged forty turkeys as well as vegetables.
Anyone wondering what they can donate won’t have to wonder for long. The list is extensive and includes rice, pasta, juice, peanut butter, jam, jelly, cereal, oatmeal, coffee, tea, hot chocolate, spaghetti sauce, sugar, honey, cake mixes, pudding, jello, canned meats, dried or canned soup, ravioli, mayo, mustard, ketchup, salad dressings, nuts, raisins, popcorn, pancake mix, syrup, canned fruits and vegetables, dry and canned beans and macaroni and cheese. Donations can be dropped off on Saturday mornings between 8:30 and 10:30.
Food Pantry organizers also point out that at Christmas they will be collecting coats for children. For more information call 845-265-3220 or email [email protected].