Portsmouth Community Service Award goes to food bank

Volunteers recognized for ‘selflessly’ contributing their time

By Jim McGaw
Posted 9/26/23

PORTSMOUTH — St. John’s Lodge Food Bank’s hard work and dedication in serving the community over the past several years has not gone unnoticed.

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Portsmouth Community Service Award goes to food bank

Volunteers recognized for ‘selflessly’ contributing their time

Posted

PORTSMOUTH — St. John’s Lodge Food Bank’s hard work and dedication in serving the community over the past several years has not gone unnoticed. 

The food pantry, located at 81 Sprague St., was honored with the town’s Portsmouth Community Service Award during Monday night’s Town Council meeting.

The award, formerly known as The Portsmouth Award, acknowledges outstanding individuals, businesses, and civic groups that consistently exhibit excellence in professional and community leadership.

A proclamation read by Council President Kevin Aguiar stated, in part:

“During the initial phase of the COVID-19 pandemic when businesses faced closures and individuals suddenly found themselves unemployed, a dedicated group of individuals established a food bank at St. Barnabas Church. This operation was subsequently relocated to St. John’s Masons Hall after four months.”

About 28 volunteers continue to operate the food pantry, “providing essential support to as many as 125 families on a weekly basis,” the proclamation stated.

Mary Ann Crittenden, president of the food bank, said the community need for the pantry has actually increased since she provided that static to the council.

“When we started this three years ago, we had about 35 families come through, and that was about 100 people. Now we’re up to 138 families that are coming through. We’re up to 325 to 350 people,” she said.

Seventy percent of those taking donations are senior citizens living on a fixed income, and 80 percent of them live in Portsmouth, Crittenden said. “We do not require that you live in Portsmouth. A lot of the food banks that they would have taken advantage of have closed; we’re picking up the slack there,” she said.

The pantry tries to provide every family of four about 10 meals in a bag. “We were at about $1,800 a week, and now we’re up to $2,830. We totally rely on donations; we don’t take any funding. A lot of the funding organizations require you to take addresses, information, to ask people questions. We don’t do that. If you come up and say that you need food, all you have to tell us is how many people are in your family. That’s it,” Crittenden said.

Whenever she gives a “spiel” about the food bank to children at local churches, Crittenden said she always tells them to thank their parents. 

“It is the residents of Portsmouth, and the small businesses of Portsmouth, that have been helping us stay alive this whole time. The numbers (are) real),” she said.

Future meetings

The council will next meet on the following dates at Town Hall, unless otherwise noted:

• Tuesday, Oct. 10, at 7 p.m.

• Saturday, Oct. 14, at 10 a.m. on Prudence Island

• Monday, Oct. 23, in the Portsmouth High School auditorium (transfer station discussion)

• Monday, Nov. 13, at 7 p.m.

St. John’s Lodge Food Bank, food bank, Portsmouth Town Council

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