It was a tough winter on the Vineyard. One place where this was keenly felt was the Island Food Pantry. Armen Hanjian, food pantry coordinator, said that while the number of people served at the pantry this past winter was slightly down, the pantry spent considerably more than ever before: $106,007, up $10,661.

The Island Food Pantry offers free food to those in need. The 32-year-old organization completed its winter season on April 30. And while help will continue to be offered throughout the coming year, the nonprofit organization does most of its work in the winter.

Mr. Hanjian completed a summary of the past year. The organization, located in the basement of Christ United Methodist Church in Vineyard Haven, assisted 503 families, which represented about 1,000 people, and at least 200 children.

A total of 202 people who used the food pantry were unemployed, compared to 151 last year, although some visitors chose not to answer this question. Mr. Hanjian said there were on average 95 visits a week. The pantry was open on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

The number of families benefitting from the pantry last winter was down from the 523 families served a year ago but their needs rose. The associated cost translated to a $10,661 increase from the year before.

“Our income went down $6,056; our expenses were up $10,661 to a record of $106,007,” Mr. Hanjian said.

Part of the reason for the lack of financial support for the nonprofit was due to the tough winter economy, Mr. Hanjian said. Many contributors who used the pantry in the past are its biggest supporters, but they, too, had a tough time, he added. “Those who are financially challenged didn’t give as much as they often do.”

“Food costs are up,” he added. “Transportation is up and that affects the cost of food. Seniors who are on fixed incomes are impacted. That plays a part.”

“In 10 out of the past 16 years, we spent more than we received. Our endowment fund covered the shortages,” Mr. Hanjian wrote in his annual report. Looking ahead, he said that it remains an ongoing challenge to keep the profile of the food pantry’s needs in the public eye to cover the tougher times.

The food pantry did receive a $20,000 grant this year which was used to purchase a 2003 Honda Element for deliveries.

Mr. Hanjian, 76, has been coordinator for 17 years, a quarter-time job without pay. There were 70 volunteers involved this past winter, about the same as a year ago.

For more information about the pantry, visit

On Saturday, May 4, at 4 p.m. the Vineyard Committee on Hunger with the Martha’s Vineyard Film Society is screening A Place at the Table, a documentary about poverty and food needs. The movie will be shown at the film center in Vineyard Haven with a discussion to follow. Mr. Hanjian will be among those in the panel.