NEW BEDFORD — With an increase in demand for its services and a decrease in supplies available to it, the Solanus Casey Food Pantry in New Bedford is seeking to navigate a storm affecting its ability to feed the hungry.

In better days, shelves at the Solanus Casey Food Pantry in New Bedford were stocked with necessities for needy people in the New Bedford area. Since the pandemic, cutbacks and other obstacles have created a food shortage, bringing the pantry closer to shutting its doors.

One of the largest food pantries in Southeastern Massachusetts, the Solanus Casey Food Pantry has had a 67 percent increase in the number of clients accessing its services since January of 2022, and a 22 percent increase since May of 2022. High prices in stores, pandemic-level Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits being reduced or lost and depleted stock levels in existing stores have contributed to the issue. 

Also, the Boston Food Bank, which supplies most of the food distributed at the Solanus Casey Food Pantry, has reduced the maximum order weight by 30 percent in the past year. Other weekly donations are also down and several other food pantries in the area have closed or also have reduced stock. 

With the uptick in demand and the decrease in donations, the Solanus Casey Food Pantry has been forced lately to close early or all together due to running out of food —unprecedented in its 30-plus year history. 

Chief Operating Officer for Catholic Social Services, Happiness Nosike-Unaka, said, “The last thing that we ever want to do is to turn away individuals and families facing food insecurity. We are redoubling our efforts to stock shelves and to find alternative purchasing solutions so that the pantry can meet the increased demand. 

“We are also calling on the community to donate items. Donations of shelf-stable milk and juice are particularly needed as direct donations of these items will mean that we can allocate the thousands of pounds these items usually take up on our weekly order to the Boston Food Bank, to bringing in more meat, vegetables, and non-perishables. 

“Restocking our shelves is also essential to our ability to launch our pilot Mobile Food Service Delivery Program so that we can serve the homebound.” 

Those who can help meet this need are urged to send donations to the Solanus Casey Food Pantry located at 238 Bonney Street in New Bedford; items may be dropped off at the back of the building from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays and Fridays and from 1-5  p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays. 

Donations can also be picked up by calling the Solanus Casey Food Pantry staff at 508-997-7337.

Monetary donations may be sent to Catholic Social Services at the central office located at 1600 Bay Street, Fall River, Mass., 02724.