Oct. 28—NORWICH — The large former Foxwoods employee parking lot on Route 2 in Norwich will have a chain across it and concrete barriers Monday morning for the first time since last January, except for a few holidays and winter weather days.
The weekly Monday drive-thru food distributions sponsored by Connecticut FoodShare have ended, as promised multiple times over the past several months. This time, CT FoodShare officials meant it, as they steered recipients to the 600 food banks and food pantries and 100 more mobile food pantries across the state.
One of those permanent mobile food pantries is held Fridays from 2:30 to 4 p.m. at St. Mary's Star of the Sea Church, 10 Huntington St., New London. The walk-up site started as a weekly emergency food distribution in January but was converted into a permanent mobile pantry.
"It's essential," CT FoodShare President and CEO Jason Jakubowski said of ending the emergency distributions. "We've been saying for many, many months these are temporary distributions. They weren't going to last forever. We've been passing out information on mobile sites and food pantries. It's essential that people make those connections."
The Norwich weekly distribution on Mondays served about 1,000 families per week, Norwich Mayor Peter Nystrom, a weekly volunteer, who helped coordinate the events. Nystrom thanked Mashantucket Tribal Chairman Rodney Butler for allowing the city and FoodShare to use the expansive parking lot, which allowed traffic to line up along the perimeter and not cause backups on Route 2.
Nystrom said one FoodShare driver who had brought supplies to the site now will bring food to the St. Vincent de Paul Place soup kitchen and to help supply mobile food pantries hosted by United Community and Family Services in Norwich.
Starting Nov. 1, CT FoodShare, which earlier this year merged with Connecticut Food Bank, will concentrate on its annual holiday food drive. This year, the agency aims to collect and distribute 50,000 turkeys, Jakubowski said. The holiday food drive, called "Turkey and 30," asks donors to contribute a turkey for a family in need, plus $30 for FoodShare's yearlong efforts to provide food to Connecticut families.
Jakubowski said while people are mostly aware of the need for food during the winter holidays, the worst time actually is during the summer, when school is out. Many families struggle to buy food year-round, he said.
An online donation box will be set up on its website, www.ctfoodshare.org for the Turkey and 30 campaign. The suggested amount for a turkey will be $18 this year, up $4 from last year, Jakubowski said, due to an anticipated shortage and rising food costs.
Local holiday food drives and food distributions will be held by St. Vincent de Paul Place, the Gemma E. Moran United Way/Labor Food Center and UCFS.