BELLOWS FALLS — Our Place Drop-in Center reports an almost 23 per cent increase since October in the number of households seeking food from its shelves.

"As winter sets in and people face increases in heating costs and trying to provide a nice holiday for their families, they rely on us more to fill the gaps," said OP Director Lisa Pitcher.

She said about 80 people attended the center's Christmas luncheon, and employees delivered a dozen lunches to people who could not get to Our Place for the meal. In December, 166 families accessed the food pantry, which represented 298 adults, including 75 who are disabled, and 169 children. Another 41 home-bound folks had food delivered. December also saw an uptick in breakfast and lunch meals served at the center and those prepared to go, rising from 1051 to 1125. The number of children served almost doubled.

Thanks to a $15,000 grant from a private foundation, Our Place will pilot a frozen prepared meal program for the pantry and will be able to improve the quality of food for the senior grocery home delivery program.

"We will be able to provide staff with senior-specific nutrition education and do more outreach to seniors in the area," Pitcher said, "and we are also looking for volunteers who have an interest in helping us carry out the project."

Our Place is a daytime shelter and food pantry located at 4 Island Street whose mission is to offer help with food and other essential needs in a non-judgmental, safe and respectful atmosphere. It serves families in Rockingham and the surrounding area and in Walpole and North Walpole, N.H. Information is available by contacting OP at 802-463-2217 or, or on line at or on Facebook.