Chronicle Launches Summertime 'Helping Neighbors' Campaign

By: Alan Pollock

Topics: Hunger

More than 650 volunteers keep the Family Pantry humming. FILE PHOTO

Family Pantry Of Cape Cod Turns 30

When a few parishioners of Holy Trinity Church came together to stock a closet with nonperishable food for the needy, little did they know that, 30 years later, their effort would grow to become the Family Pantry of Cape Cod. They probably also couldn’t have foreseen how important the pantry would prove to be, not just for families facing emergency hardships, but also for people working two or more jobs who are trying to meet the high cost of living on Cape Cod.

“We’re a sustaining pantry,” Executive Director Christine Menard said. And so far this year, the Family Pantry is on track to see a 17 percent increase in visits in 2019. Marking its third decade this year, the nonprofit is up to the task – provided that the community comes through once again with generous donations.

To that end, The Cape Cod Chronicle is launching its annual summertime Helping Neighbors campaign this week. Each week between now and Labor Day, we’ll be featuring stories about the Family Pantry, its volunteers and the people it helps. We’re also turning to our readers to help meet a $60,000 fundraising goal.

“Around the holidays, our year-round subscribers always pitch in Helping Neighbors,” Chronicle Publisher Henry C. Hyora said. “The summertime edition of the campaign is a way to give seasonal visitors a chance to do their part.” And in the previous two years, summer visitors have shown incredible generosity, contributing nearly $250,000 to the Family Pantry.

This year’s campaign is without the benefit of the large matching grant that boosted numbers in the past two years, though it’s not too late for a benefactor to offer such a match, Menard said. “That would be really wonderful. It could be an individual or a group of people,” she said.

“Those of us who live here year-round know that the Cape’s economy is very seasonal, and the winter can be a lean time for many families,” Hyora said. “But in the summertime, many of the working people who run that economic engine are also in need.”

During the visitor season, the Family Pantry serves lots of restaurant workers, landscapers and retail staff who provide the services that summer visitors and seasonal residents depend upon.

“We help support a lot of seasonal workers. We’re getting clobbered by the J-1 visas,” Menard said, referring to the program that invites foreign students to come and work in the U.S.

Through innovative outreach programs, the Family Pantry has expanded its reach to assist not only seasonal workers but senior citizens, families with young children, and even local college students. The program focuses not only on filling more grocery bags, but on filling them with the most nutritious food possible. Thanks to several key community partnerships as well as its own expansive garden tended by volunteers, the Family Pantry’s grocery offerings are now more than 35 percent fresh food. It’s far more expensive than filling bellies with pasta and other cheap, starchy foods.

“It’s all about nutrition,” Menard said. “That’s always been our focus.”

Every dollar donated to the Family Pantry provides four healthy meals. While the organization serves all of the Cape – it greatest number of clients comes from the town of Barnstable – the Family Pantry fills a key need on the Lower Cape. Last year it served more than 667 households in Chatham, Harwich and Orleans, providing 16,464‬ bags of food. In the summertime, those clients include the people who cut our hair, clean our hotel rooms and keep guard over our beaches.

“Somebody you depend on, depends on us,” Menard said.

Contribute to The Chronicle’s summertime Helping Neighbors campaign by sending a tax-deductible contribution to The Family Pantry, 133 Queen Anne Road, Harwich, MA 02645, writing “Helping Neighbors” in the memo line. Donors can also text the word “hunger” to 80100 to donate $20, or donate online now. The Chronicle will publish a list of donors each week.