MANCHESTER, NH – In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Families in Transition/New Horizons obtained $2.7 million in federal funding to relocate its food pantry, from the 199 Manchester St. homeless shelter, and to cover the cost of renovating the shelter to add another 40 beds.
The money came with a hitch: Get it done in three months. That was the allotted time before the funds – from the New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority and the Governor’s Office for Emergency Relief for a Shelter Modification Program (funded by the state through Coronavirus Relief Fund established by the CARES Act) – expired.
FIT/New Horizons quickly settled on a building at 176 Lake Ave., where car batteries once were sold, and on meeting that 90-day deadline.
Gov. Chris Sununu, who took a look at the proposed site last year, was clearly skeptical. “I peeked in and I said how are they going to do that?” he told more than 50 people gathered Monday inside the lime green building for a ribbon-cutting ceremony marking the official opening.
“It’s awesome,” he said looking around the finished site. “ It’s right in the right location, providing the right services at the right time.”
Previously, people picked up provisions twice a month at the 199 Manchester St. shelter. When the pandemic hit, that initially was shut down with meals provided to only those living at the shelter. The provisions were replaced with “to-go” packages for those not staying at the shelter.
Relocating the food pantry meant doubling its size, from about 5,000 square feet to more than 10,000 square feet.
It provides groceries, on average, to about 325 Manchester households each month but with appointments now unnecessary, that number is expected to climb. Recently, 42 people were provided provisions in a single day, according to FIT/New Horizons.
Now that the food pantry is open to all (it actually opened in January by appointment-only) walk-ins again are being welcomed. Masks are required. The pantry is open on Mondays, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., and Tuesday – Friday, 10 a.m. to noon, and 1 to 4 p.m.
Maria Devlin, who next Tuesday marks her one-year anniversary as president and CEO of FIT/New Horizons, said she grew up hungry and remembers her parents being handed a box containing government cheese and powdered milk and other surplus government food.
The new food pantry provides Manchester residents experiencing hunger with a grocery shopping experience. Shopping carts are available, just like in a grocery store, to carry items they select for themselves and/or their families from shelves as they walk up and down the aisles. What is available varies daily depending on what is donated by Hannaford, Trader Joe’s and sometimes Whole Foods and what is received once a month from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Among the items are fresh produce (on Monday there were pineapples, peppers, broccoli, to name a few) meats, canned goods, cereals, pasta, personal hygiene products, and other groceries.
People can shop twice a month although there still are daily provisions available, i.e., fresh rescue (partnering with farms and stores to ensure unused items don’t go to landfills) which includes deli items, breads, pastries, etc.
For more information about volunteering or making donations, call FIT/New Horizons at 603-641-9441 or visit their website at newhorizonsnh.org.