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Food Pantry Struggles Through Summer Season

With donations and food supplies dwindling, the Harrison Food Pantry is struggling to supply food for Harrison residents in need.

Paycheck-to-paycheck living has become the norm for most of the more than 100 local families who rely on the to survive.

Right now the pantry itself exists in a similar capacity.

There is no savings account and little reserve stock in the Harrison Food Pantry these days. Although donations have helped, the pantry is just hoping to scrape by until the holiday season, barely getting through the summer without running completely empty.

Much like the families that rely on it to put food on the table.

There is an on-going problem at the pantry, over the last few years every month less people can afford to donate, while more people are added to the list of people in need of supplies.

That list, which is kept confidential, includes more than 300 people and more than 100 local children, said Nina Marraccini, Harrison director of community services. There are about a half-dozen families that rely on the pantry for the majority of their food every week.

But with the holiday season still months away, Marraccini said she doesn't know if there are enough supplies to keep these families fed on a regular basis.

"The shelves are, for the first time, really bare," said Marraccini.

Maybe it's the recession's ever-reaching affect taking it's toll, maybe people are still reluctant to donate following a controversy earlier this year involving town workers who were . Either way, the amount of food at the pantry has reached dangerously low levels.

"Everybody is hurting," said Marraccini, who said the people who use the pantry range from apartment-dwelling singles in historically poor areas of town to people in some in the most unlikely upper-scale neighborhoods.

Those families have been receiving meals of hot dogs, chicken and eggs. At this point, buying even 100 cans of soup for the people on the pantry's list is out of the question.

"Usually I was able to run a much better pantry," said Marraccini, adding that the resources are so stretched she has reached out to the schools and nearby religious organizations for help. She is working with the Harrison Central School District and hopes to organize a canned food drive this fall.

Over the last few months, as the shelves at the pantry continued to empty, Marraccini said she has been working harder than ever to find people willing to donate food and clothing to those in need. But even those anxious to help have been struggling.

"Right now it's a different scene," Marraccini said. "It really is."

During the last six months the number of low-income families who need the food and clothing has grown from 80 to more than 100. Far more new names are added than old ones removed, and there is even an alarming trend among those who no longer receive assistance. Although the hope is that those taken off the list have found jobs and can now supply for themselves, the reality is that most have given up, sold their homes, and moved out of town, Marraccini said.

For the time being, donations and programs have helped. Harrison students in need as part of a program organized by the Harrison Association of Teachers. Several community groups have hundreds and even of dollars the the pantry this year, especially in the rocked the pantry in February.

Those donations helped bring not only food, but clothing to Harrison residents in need.

"Food is just a precursor to everything going on with a family," Marraccini said. "There's more to it than that."

But, as it does every year, the summer season brought a dry spell to the pantry. When Hurricane Irene threatened the region last month, Marraccini said she was asked if the pantry could stock up on supplies for families that might be flooded out of their homes.

She had to say no.

"It's not the case right now," she said. "I have to be beyond frgual, there's just so much uncertainty."

Although things at the pantry will likely improve in the coming months as the holiday season brings out , the next few weeks are expected to be trying times at the food pantry.

"We'll take anything and everything," Marraccini said. "We are reaching out to anybody and everybody."

If you would like to donate to the Harrison Food Pantry, please contact Nina Marraccini at (914)-670-3026.

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