Mobile food pantry fills a need in Ridgefield and beyond: 'People should not go hungry'

Volunteers unloading food at the Connecticut FoodShare Mobile Food Pantry at St. Andrew's Church in Ridgefield.

Volunteers unloading food at the Connecticut FoodShare Mobile Food Pantry at St. Andrew's Church in Ridgefield.

Joann Mulvaney

RIDGEFIELD  —  Every other Friday, year round, a group of people can be found standing in front of a large food truck at St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church on Ivy Hill Road in town.

The truck is the Connecticut Foodshare Mobile Pantry, a nonprofit organization that provides fresh and healthy food for those in need.

"Food is such a essential part of our existence and people should not go hungry. (The mobile food pantry) helps people feed their families and have that dinner table experience  —  I believe in that strongly," said site coordinator Joann Mulvaney, who has been volunteering with the mobile pantry in Ridgefield since 2018. 

The mobile pantry travels to about 110 different locations across the state. It will next visit St. Andrew's March 17 from 9:45 a.m. to 10:45 a.m.  

St. Andrew's hosts the truck and provides the volunteers, who set up tables with a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy, meats, cheeses, breads and cakes. 

Mulvaney said CT Foodshare primarily gets food from donations from grocery stores, food manufacturers and other food outlets.

Additionally, some of the food they receive is part of the network Feeding America — a nonprofit organization that coordinates large scale donations across the nation.

Connecticut FoodShare is located in Wallingford. 

"That's their hub, that's where the food comes into their warehouse. They have volunteers working to separate food and get it ready to go on the trucks to go out to the different mobile pantries," Mulvaney said. "The pantry has always been more of a farmers market style."

About 80 people use the food truck at each visit, she said, adding the truck is open to residents and those from out of town.

The driver of the truck tells the volunteers how many portions of each item should be given out. 

"We have roughly 15 volunteers that show up each time," said Mulvaney, a Ridgefield resident. 

Ridgefield resident Craig Borders, who is a volunteer, said "The nice thing is there's different food that's offered every week. It depends on what the donations are.

"If you're struggling financially and you've got a choice between paying your electric bill and your gasoline bill and your food bill, something's gotta give," Borders said. "This is an opportunity for people who are struggling financially no matter where they live, to come and get some good food supplies to supplement their diet."

He added, "It's a very gratifying way to help your neighbor."

Prior to the pandemic, there was an additional aspect on food truck days —  free books donated from the Ridgefield Library. 

"The library would come with a table of books so the kids or adults would come and they'd pick out a book," Mulvaney said. "There were all kinds of books."

The volunteers are trying to bring the books back, Mulvaney said. 

Mulvaney said the mobile food pantry makes every effort not to cancel, even through the winter months. 

"If it's raining. If it's cold, we're there," she said.

Other options for those in need

While the Ridgefield town food pantry has been closed since COVID-19, households who qualify may be eligible to receive gift cards to Stop & Shop. purchased by the town.

"We've been consistently helping people with food to even probably a larger degree than prior to the pandemic. We probably spent over $350,000 in grocery gift cards since 2020," said Tony Phillips, Ridgefield's social services director.

Phillips works with residents on a case by case basis and also can provide help in other areas such as energy assistance, transportation, summer camp, back to school and holiday gifts.

He said from 130 to 150 households qualify for assistance each year.

For information on donating to Ridgefield's gift card program, visit the town website.