FALL RIVER, Mass. (WPRI) — With grocery costs on the rise, the food pantry run by the Veterans Association of Bristol County (VABC) is seeing an increase in demand.

More than 100 veterans come through the door each day to pick up free food, according to Executive Director Ken Levesque. He said the center gives out about 400 carts of food each month on average, but he expects that number to soon grow.

“This time of the year is the busy time, so we will be over 500 for the month of November,” he said. “Again, same in December.”

The pantry also gives out about 50 hot meals per day.

Data shows that reliance on food pantries has been increasing over the past few years. According to the Rhode Island Hunger Survey released earlier this month, 9% of respondents got most of their food from a food bank program in 2019. That number increased to 17.7% in 2023.

Levesque said more and more people who served our country have been relying on the VABC to get by.

“Our numbers continue to grow month over month,” Levesque said. “In the last two months, we’ve had over 50 new veterans sign up for services with us.”

With Thanksgiving around the corner, the pantry is asking for donations. Specifically, it’s seeking gift cards so that veterans can buy themselves a turkey and other items.

“We do take in donations of food, clothing, house items. The only thing we do not take is furniture,” Levesque explained. “What we really need right now is gift cards to help supplement the food pantry carts.”

“We’re not giving away turkeys,” he added. “Logistically, we just don’t have the space for it.”

Visit the VABC’s website to donate and learn more.