NORTH HARWICH — Maybe it was the disruption caused by the tornado, or perhaps people are starting to focus on back-to-school activities. Or maybe people are understandably focused on enjoying their Cape Cod summer vacations. But whatever the reason, donations had slowed to a trickle in our annual Helping Neighbors campaign to benefit the Family Pantry of Cape Cod.
But thanks to the generosity of an anonymous Harwich donor, the fundraiser is getting a much-needed shot in the arm. The donor has pledged to match the next $5,000 in contributions dollar-for-dollar, helping the Pantry put food on the table for local families in need.
The generosity of summer residents and visitors is key to helping the Family Pantry meet increased demand, both from local families and from seasonal workers, Executive Director Christine Menard said.
The numbers paint a clear picture. Last year, 95 families in Orleans, 210 in Chatham and 362 from Harwich turned to the Pantry to help put nutritious food on the table. Around the Cape, more than 4,000 families depended on the Family Pantry last year, receiving 91,342 bags of food. For some, the Pantry’s support frees up money when some unexpected expense—like a medical emergency or a broken-down vehicle—derail their monthly budget.
For many others, the Family Pantry pushes down the monthly grocery bill, making it possible for them to pay for housing, child care and other ordinary expenses. The cost of living on the Cape is high, and many important service jobs don’t pay wages sufficient to meet those needs, Menard said.
“We’re a sustaining pantry, not an emergency pantry,” she said. Many clients work two jobs or more trying to make ends meet, she noted.
From 2017 to last year, client visits were up 13 percent, the number of families served was up 6 percent, and there was an 11 percent jump in the number of new clients. Together, the figures make it clear that the need for the Family Pantry’s services isn’t going away anytime soon.
“We’re on track to have 10,000 clients in 2019, and more than 100,000 bags of groceries. That’s 2.1 million meals,” Menard said. “It’s up significantly.”
But behind every statistic, there’s a real family who depends on the Family Pantry.
“With the high cost of food here on the Cape, and with Social Security as my only income, I would have difficulty in finding enough food to eat,” a client named Jack wrote. “The Family Pantry has not only fulfilled that need, but also on occasion has provided a needed piece of clothing. Often the volunteers will make suggestions on available foods, and even offer ways to cook them,” he wrote.
The “shopping” experience for clients is similar to a supermarket. Clients get to select the foods they need, based on their personal preferences. The process is simple and efficient, and always preserves clients’ dignity.
“Everyone...the volunteers, the staff...are such nice people. It means so much to me to be received so warmly. Many know my name when I walk in the door. Sometimes I even get a hug,” Jack said.
In previous years, the summertime edition of Helping Neighbors has raised more money than the original fundraiser, which happens between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. In the past, anonymous summer residents came together to provide generous matching grants that helped keep the donations coming throughout the summer.
“We really appreciate the donor who’s providing the current matching gift,” Cape Cod Chronicle Publisher Henry C. Hyora said. “It’ll be just the thing to help get this campaign back on track.”
Contribute to The Chronicle’s summertime Helping Neighbors campaign by sending a tax-deductible contribution to The Family Pantry, 133 Queen Anne Rd., Harwich, MA 02645, writing “Helping Neighbors” in the memo line. Donors can also text the word “hunger” to 80100 to donate $20, or click here to donate online. The Chronicle will publish a list of donors each week.