Food Demand On The Rise At Pantries

By: William F. Galvin

Topics: Hunger , COVID-19

A bag full of groceries with a list stapled to it is handed to a client at The Family Pantry of Cape Cod.  KAT SZMIT PHOTO

HARWICH — With more businesses either closing their doors or reducing staff, more people are reaching out to The Family Pantry of Cape Cod and the Lower Cape Outreach Council to feed their families.

Family Pantry Director Christine Menard said Monday the pantry is seeing an increase in the number of people in need of food for their families, many of whom were just laid off. There are others who have utilized the pantry in the past, now coming back because they have lost their jobs.

The increase comes on top of already high demand. Menard said last year there was a 13 percent increase in clients, and the year before there was a 15 percent increase. Given the present conditions caused by the pandemic, she anticipates the numbers will rise. She said some people may have received their last pay check, will be facing rent at the end of the month and will need food for their families.

Menard said the pantry is ready to accommodate those needs. She said the Greater Boston Food Bank has been very committed and is “staying the course” in delivering provisions. On Monday, she said, they delivered two trailer-truck loads of food. They provide 25 pallets a week, or 48,000 to 50,000 pounds of food.

“As the need continues to grow, they’ll get us more product,” Menard said.

Larry Marsland, chief executive officer of the Orleans-based Lower Cape Outreach Council, said he anticipates demand on the 10 pantries the agency operates to increase, along with its financial assistance program, which he said remains “in full operation.”

LCOC pantries are open on a rotating basis, with at least two open daily, he said. All will operate on a drive-through basis, with volunteers collecting and delivering groceries to clients curb-side.

Those with means can help by making financial donations, Marsland said. “I'm telling everybody who will listen that we can be as responsive as our means allows us to be,” he said.

“Cash is king,” Menard said of community donations that help make the food available. She said a dollar can provide four meals through the Greater Boston Food Bank’s buying power.

There was some good news on Monday for the Boston Food Bank. It was one of 13 major food banks across the Northeast that will receive a portion of a $1 million donation from the Stop & Shop Company.

“This donation will help our food bank partners across the Northeast who let us know they’re in need of cash to support the vital work they are doing in our communities to assure access to food,” Stop & Shop President Gordon Reid said in a statement.

Menard said there are a number of ways residents can help out, including donating online at The Family Pantry.com; sending a check to the office; or becoming a Bag A Month Ambassador with an automatic payment of $25 to $100. Donations can also be made by cell phone by texting the word “Hunger” to 80100. The donation will appear on your phone bill.

Menard also pointed out with recycling centers at town transfer stations closing, redeemable cans and bottles

(not glass) can go a long way to help the Pantry. There are drop-off location at the pantry at 133 Queen Anne Rd. and at Holy Trinity Church on Route 28 in West Harwich.

There are additional needs at the Pantry, she added. More able-bodied volunteers are needed to assist with the increased pressures on the pantry. In an effort to create social distancing, the pantry has set up a tent in the parking lot and people take “a deli number” and are given a shopping list to fill out. It is handed to a volunteer to take inside and the order is filled and brought out to the curb.

The volunteer needs have grown, and there are some volunteers who have been put in a position of taking care of family. Menard said teachers and other people who have free time given the surrounding circumstances who might want to lend a helping hand are welcome. Volunteers can register on the pantry’s website. The Second Glance Thrift Boutique has been closed and volunteers from there are helping out at the pantry.

The Pantry outlet at Cape Cod Community College is closed given the dismissal of classes and the college's use as a COVID-19 testing site. However, the Healthy Meals In Motion Mobile Food Pantry is still operating through council on aging agencies in Chatham, Brewster, Eastham and Provincetown.

Menard said the pantry is meeting the demand of the communities and anyone in need of food can come in and sign up. The process has been made a little quicker through a temporary registration format for new clients at the tent.

The pantry in Harwich is open Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.; Wednesdays 10 a.m. to noon; Thursdays 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and 5 to 7 p.m.; and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to noon.

Along with its central location at 19 Brewster Cross Road in Orleans—which is open three days a week—LCOC operates pantries at the United Methodist Church of Orleans, St. Christopher's in Chatham, St. Peter's Lutheran Church in Harwich, and Brewster Baptist Church in Brewster. Check the agency's website, lcoutreach.org, or call 508-240-0694 for open days and times, Marsland said. Delivery to homebound residents was scheduled to begin Tuesday.

The agency also provides emergency financial assistance for Lower Cape residents who need temporary help meeting rent or utility payments. Clients can still talk to advocates via phone, Marsland said, and approved funding is sent directly to vendors.