Darien’s Person-to-Person has just expanded its outreach to the hungry and those in need by launching P2P On Wheels, a mobile food truck in Stamford.

The truck launch happened on April 5 and it was sent out into the community on April 9. P2P Executive Director Ceci Maher told The Darien Times there are several benefits to the new food truck. One of them is extra storage.

“Sometimes the Connecticut Food Bank runs specials, on something like green beans. Before we had nowhere to store it. Now we do,” she said.

P2P On Wheels in Stamford helps address the high rate of food insecurity in that city, serves more Stamford residents with casework counseling and emergency financial assistance and increases collaboration with partner agencies in Stamford. (At the Darien Food Pantry, P2P is limited to serving 20 Stamford families daily. With P2P On Wheels, the agency can serve up to an additional 40 families daily in their own neighborhoods.)

Staffed by a P2P caseworker for client appointments, P2P On Wheels features a full selection of grocery items including fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy items, grains, meat and poultry and shelf-stable goods, which follows the MyPlate.gov initiative to promote healthy food choices. Each client receives enough food for three meals a day for seven days for each member of their family. Having a P2P caseworker on board gives people in the community local access to counseling services and emergency financial assistance.

P2P On Wheels is the only full-service Mobile Food Pantry serving Stamford four days a week, where 9% live below the poverty level, 30,000 people struggle with food insecurity and half the population’s children qualify for free or reduced-price school lunches. The layout of the Mobile Food Pantry enables clients to select their own groceries to meet the nutritional needs of their families. Clients can make an appointment to visit P2P On Wheels once each month.

Stationed at four partner sites during the week to provide local access to P2P services — Mondays: Yerwood Center; Tuesdays: Ferguson Library South; Wednesdays: DOMUS; Thursdays: Building One Community — in the first three weeks of operation, P2P On Wheels served 220 households, including 41 new client households, for a total of approximately 700 people who might otherwise have gone hungry. P2P On Wheels is parked and stocked at the Stamford Warehouse (425 Fairfield Avenue).

Maher said she isn’t sure Darien residents are aware of the three locations for Person-to-Person. In addition to the Darien food pantry housed at the St. Luke’s Church property, there is a Norwalk location and now there is a Stamford location. Part of the advantage of the food truck is that P2P was attempting to remove barriers to access for all those in need — especially those who have a tough time getting to the Darien food pantry.

“The working poor sometimes are holding down two jobs as well as providing childcare. They want to make sure their children are fed,” she said.

In the less than a month that the food truck was working in Stamford in April, Maher said 700 people were fed.

In Connecticut, more than 120,000 residents regularly skip meals to allow others in their households to eat, while one in six children struggles with hunger (source: CT Food Bank). Hungry children have difficulty concentrating and experience developmental delays that lead to poor academic performance, with lifetime repercussions. Lack of access to healthy food is linked to a variety of long-term chronic health problems for children and adults, which disproportionately affect the working poor.

The majority of P2P clients are earning less than 235% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines, the threshold for the Emergency Food Assistance Program, or $56,988 for a family of four. The agency also serves clients who fall into the ALICE (Asset Limited Income Constrained Employed) category who may earn more and yet still not be able to cover all their essential expenses such as food, utilities, or childcare, or do not have the resources to cope with a situational crisis.

Maher said volunteers love working on the truck because of all the “God bless yous and thank yous.”

Person-to-Person is always seeking volunteers and the new food truck gives them even more opportunity to do so.

“If people like to get a hug and feel like you are accomplishing something, it is a great opportunity. There is really so much gratitude from people,” Maher said.

Interested volunteers should contact volunteer coordinator Janet King at janetking@p2phelps.org.