Empty shelves

Sis Sabin, left, former director of the Waterbury Area Food Shelf, and Adele Yandow, the food shelf’s manager.

Supplies at the Waterbury Area Food Shelf are scarce, which is unwelcome news at a time of year when demand tends to go up.

To help restock the shelves, Waterbury resident Mary Miller and a team of volunteers will hold an Election Day food drive at the polls at Thatcher Brook Primary School on Tuesday, Nov. 4.

Food shelf Director Cara Griswold welcomes anything anyone can spare for donation.

Items such as soup, peanut butter, jelly, cans of tuna, baking mixes, soap, shampoo and toiletries are always in great demand.

The idea behind the food drive is that democracy and donations go hand in hand, Miller said.

“When we vote, we’re taking part in democracy. We’re part of the community. It’s a time to think about taking care of our neighbors,” Miller said.

Griswold said supplies often run low this time of year, since the “giving season” is just getting started.

But it’s unnerving, because this is also the time of year when many families feel a financial crunch.

“The need is always there and that doesn’t really change too much throughout the year. But now, people are starting to face fuel bills for heat and everyone really has to start planning for the winter,” Griswold said.

Miller has organized the food drive every election year since 2000 and donations of food items and money continue to grow — a trend she and Griswold hope will continue this year.

In its first year, the drive collected $359 and a dozen boxes filled with food.

In 2012, the totals were $3,354 and 96 bags of food.

Miller said many residents already equate voting with making a donation.

“You could tell when Election Day came along people would automatically think of the food drive, and they knew when they were going to the polls to get some food ready,” she said.

Food donations are just part of the equation, as voters have also been generous with their checkbooks.

Financial donations allow the food shelf to buy food directly from the Vermont Foodbank and other sources.

“One year we had a woman who pulled out her checkbook and wrote a check for $100 and we had another person who left and then came back with a check for $250,” Miller said. “It’s just amazing.”

Griswold said she’s seeing more and more hard-working families struggling to make ends meet.

“We have so many working families. A lot of times, they’re right on the edge financially and all it takes is for something like the car to break down or someone gets sick or hurt, and they’re stuck with an outrageous medical bill,” she said. “There’s nothing for them to fall back on.”

Griswold said rising food costs and stagnant wages can be a recipe for disaster.

“The price of everything has gone up,” she said.

Griswold said the food shelf really benefits from these kinds of donation drives.

“It’s a huge help. This drive is one of the first of the year and it kick-starts things and gets everything rolling,” she said. “It’s a great drive. It’s just another thing that shows we have a fantastic and generous community.”

Food and monetary donations will be accepted on Election Day from 7 a.m. until the polls close at 7 p.m.

Griswold said she’s always looking for volunteers to help on the day of the drive and beyond.

“Right now, we really need some steady volunteers,” she said.

The food shelf is open for anyone who lives in the Waterbury area (Duxbury, Bolton, Middlesex, Moretown, etc.) who needs help putting food on the table.

It’s located at 57 S. Main St., Suite 3, in Waterbury and is open Monday and Friday from 10 a.m. to noon and Wednesday from 3 to 5 p.m.

For more information, call the food shelf at 244-1561.

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