New Windsor church adjusts food pantry schedule amid pandemic

NEW WINDSOR – The town’s food pantry has served eight times more families during the coronavirus pandemic. Now Encounter Church, which took over the food pantry from the town in February, is balancing food and worship services as the number of people in need slows down.

Pastor Anthony Mugnano said normally the food pantry serves about 60 to 80 families a month when he first took over in February. He saw the number surge to 120 per week since the pandemic hit the area in March, as many people struggled out of jobs.

Volunteer Jayce Goldberg delivers a box of food goods from the pantry to a waiting car at Encounter Church in Rock Tavern on Sunday.

“When you go through hardship, in addition to foods, you also need things that cost more money,” said Mugnano’s wife, Veronica Mugnano, who helps manage the food pantry.

Mugnano changed the frequency of food service from monthly to weekly, distributing necessities every Sunday in response to the surge of need. As the demand for staff went up, Mugnano’s young children and their friends joined the forces to help with restocking and registration during the drive-through services.

Thanks to an increase in food and monetary donations from the community, the food pantry can provide essential groceries other than food. They can also help out other food pantries throughout the region.

The volunteers also put together special boxes that were customized for families who have special needs.

The coping strategies ran smoothly until the church reopened its Sunday worship services in mid-June. Veronica Mugnano said the church leadership balanced the food and worship needs and decided to continue the weekly food pantry and add one more worship service so volunteers can continue serving food while attending the church.

“We have people that are depending on it right now so we can’t just cut it off completely,” said Mugnano. “We’ll see how it goes in the next couple weeks and will probably go back to monthly. But if we feel like if people still need it weekly we’ll consider their needs too.”

Recently the number of families being served has stayed steady at 50 to 60 each week.

Pastor Mugnano’s daughter, Antonella, 14, said she took what her parents had done to the family for granted before she stepped in helping others.

“The looks on people’s faces are priceless. It really showed me how grateful I should be for the things that I have,” Antonella said. “Right now, with everything going on around the world, the least we can do is continue helping people who are lost and broken.”

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