MANCHESTER, N.H. – On Friday, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) toured the New Hampshire Food Bank’s mobile pantry to see one example of the impact the American Rescue Plan’s (ARP) passage last week is having in the Granite State.
Within the ARP’s 222 different sections, there are various provisions for ensuring food security during the COVID-19 pandemic ranging from additional funding for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs (SNAP), the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), direct support for farmers and more.
While the ARP received blowback from Republicans who felt many of its provisions do little to help those suffering due to the pandemic, Shaheen has challenged those assertions. Along with other types of support such as added broadband infrastructure for those forced to work online to extended unemployment insurance for those who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic, Shaheen stressed the value of the ARP’s support for initiatives like the New Hampshire Food Bank’s work on Friday.
“It’s absolutely critical,” she said. “ARP has provided additional funding for food and nutrition for so many who have needed it during these difficult times.”
In a normal year, the New Hampshire Food Bank would have around seven to 10 events like the one on Friday where volunteers would provide food assistance to needy individuals and families around the state. In 2020, they held 72, and this year they’ve held one every other Friday so far.
New Hampshire Food Bank Executive Director Eileen Liponis estimated that approximately 600 to 800 vehicles came to receive food on Friday, a drive-thru event held at facility owned by Comcast on Island Pond Road.
In 2020, Liponis says that the New Hampshire Food Bank distributed two million pounds of food to 30,000 families across the state, due in large part to drive-thru events like the one on Friday.
She says that even after the pandemic ends, comparable drive-thru events may remain alongside the less socially distanced affairs that took place before the pandemic, but the New Hampshire Food Bank will continue to adapt.
“Throughout this entire thing we’ve been pivot, adjust re-apply, just do whatever we need to do to be effective in getting food to those who need it most,” she said.