With Burgeoning Need, Can The Family Pantry Keep Pace? ‘Helping Neighbors’ Campaign Helps Make Sure It Can

By: Alan Pollock

Topics: Hunger

The Family Pantry has plenty of warehouse space at its North Harwich headquarters, where it stores food, sorts donations of clothing and serves clients. FILE PHOTO

It seems that every year, more and more people rely on the Family Pantry of Cape Cod to help put food on the table. So far this year, client visits are up 17 percent, and the nonprofit is on track to have a client roster of around 10,000 in 2019, up significantly from last year. Can the Harwich-based organization keep pace with the increased need?

Family Pantry Executive Director Christine Menard says it can, with continued support from year-round residents and visitors to the Cape.

“Thank God the community comes together,” she said. The facility has a large warehouse and around 650 volunteers, and donations continue to keep pace with the growing demand, Menard said. Last year, the organization distributed $3.9 million worth of food, representing about 1.9 million meals. The Family Pantry also provided clients with 33 tons of gently-used clothing. But understanding the real story means going beyond the numbers.

Linda was a longtime employee of a nursing home in Brewster, where she had worker’s compensation coverage and other insurance. “Now that they are closing and laid her off, she is suffering from a hip condition that may make it impossible for her to work,” a friend wrote in a testimonial for the Family Pantry. “Comp is gone, job is gone, income is gone.” Fearing that she won’t be able to pay the rent or make her car payment, Linda went to the Family Pantry for help.

“At least she has food as she deals with all her other health and financial crises,” the friend wrote.

Meeting Linda’s needs, and those of thousands of other clients, means the Family Pantry has to be thrifty.

“We’re very cost-conscious,” Menard said. “We don’t spend money on things that don’t feed people.” For instance, the Family Pantry’s partner, the Greater Boston Food Bank, recently began providing more frozen food as a more nutritious alternative to canned goods. The Family Pantry needed additional freezers to store the foodstuffs, but didn’t want to use regular donations to buy them. Instead, the organization made a special appeal to the Cape Cod Foundation, which came through with a special grant for that purpose.


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 by clicking here.  The Chronicle will publish a list of donors each week.