It is with a bit of dismay that we learned the school district and Town of Stonington are partnering with United Way of Southeastern Conn., to bring healthy, fresh and free fruit, vegetables and meat to local families.
The dismay is not with the fact that the needy will have a place to obtain free, healthy food, but rather with the logistics of the food distribution program.
It made us wonder why the nonprofit Pawcatuck Neighborhood Center on Chase Street was not brought in on this endeavor?
The center has been providing the same service to our neighbors for the past 28 years and has a proven track record. It also has a list of more than 2,000 people that have already been qualified to receive free food and other services.
Those numbers can be broken down further. More than 100 families whose children are eligible for free or reduced-price school lunches receive weekender backpacks of food to carry those youngsters through the weekend – all year long.
Public officials make it seem that those in need are currently not being served.
While we would never want to stand in the way of the needy receiving help, it seems that streamlining the process would go a long way to seeing that people are helped in an efficient and timely manner. And utilizing the staff and volunteer crew at the PNC that has experience in that endeavor seems logical.
One could argue that having two distribution sites would help families with limited transportation reach one site or the other. However, the PNC and the school are 1.7 miles apart. It seems that that distance would not be insurmountable to most of those in need.
Besides, in citing the need, town officials say that there are already 30 to 40 families traveling to Groton or Norwich Free Academy, 19.2 miles away, to pick up food from mobile pantries.
Officials are looking to start the distribution of food using the mobile refrigerator truck the first week of February, with either the Stonington High School or Stonington Human Services parking lot on South Broad Street serving as a host to the truck once a month.
In this case, school officials say families receiving food do not have to show proof of income which is a bit troubling. In a perfect world that might work, but the system as they describe it seems ripe for abuse.
At a food distribution site like the PNC, recipients must pass a five-step process showing that they are income or circumstance eligible. In the PNC’s case, it is required — by the United Way and other donors — to make sure that the food is truly reaching those in need.
Eight volunteers will be needed every month to help with the distribution of food at the mobile site, which will occur during after-work hours.
It would seem logical that the mobile site could be set up at the Pawcatuck Neighborhood Center utilizing its resources, but that has not happened. It only has us wondering why?