St. Albans food shelf and home deliveries provide inclusive food security

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Toni Auriemma has worked at NorthWest Family Foods off-and-on for 20 years. Now, as the food shelf coordinator, she is responsible for overseeing the daily operations of the shelf, which moves about 15,000 to 20,000 pounds of food in total per month. 

Auriemma is no stranger to crowds at the food shelf on Lemnah Drive. Even when she started 20 years ago, the shelf was feeding around 300 households per month. Now, she said, that number has steadily increased over the years, with the shelf feeding upwards of 550 to 650 households or 1,200 to 1,300 individuals per month.

But while the number of customers at the food shelf has steadily increased over two decades, the recent rise in new people coming has been anything but gradual.

In August and September, the food shelf saw 86 and 83 new households coming in respectively, which Auriemma said is typical for the shelf to get in a given month. But the amount of new households utilizing the food shelf in October almost doubled; 150 new households visited the shelf in the one month alone.

And according to Auriemma, this is unprecedented. The food shelf did not see a jump as dramatic as this between September and October of 2022.

Why the sudden increase? Auriemma isn’t sure, but with a population in St. Albans that has remained fairly consistent, she believes that rising food inflation has something to do with it.

With the Bureau of Labor Statistics reporting that food prices are now outpacing general inflation, Auriemma said she would not be surprised if the higher grocery price tag is contributing to the food shelf’s recent popularity.

“The only thing I can account it for is the massive increase in the price of food,” she said.

And as the weather turns colder and St. Albans residents turn to their heaters to stay warm, Auriemma said she doesn’t see the trend of first-time families paying a visit to the food shelf slowing down anytime soon, especially with November being the food shelf’s typically busiest month.

“It’s a trend I can’t imagine will go down with heating prices,” Auriemma said.

And while the food shelf is seeing greater and greater numbers of first-time customers, CVOEO is now back to serving St. Albans with another method: food delivery.