Coming together to end hunger
While getting food to people facing hunger is essential throughout the entire year, it takes on special significance during these holiday months. With Thanksgiving quickly approaching, food is on the minds of many people. But, probably none more so than those that are forced to go without during times that are supposed to be plentiful.
Currently in Western Massachusetts, there are more than 235,000 people that rely on food pantries, meal sites, shelters, and other emergency programs to get food. An estimated 33,580 of them are children under the age of 18 (according to Feeding America, the national network of food banks). Of these, 22% (or about 7,000 children) are from households that don’t qualify to receive SNAP benefits, but yet their income is still too low to pay for basic household expenses and put adequate food on the table.
The Food Bank is working harder than ever to provide more nutritious food (including fresh produce, meats and dairy) to our neighbors in need throughout the year. Over the past 12 months, we have distributed nearly 10 million pounds of food, which is the equivalent of 8.3 million meals. Of this total, about a fifth is fresh produce, mainly coming from local farms, including 160,000 lbs. from our own Food Bank Farm in Hadley (in partnership with Mountain View Farm).
As we look ahead to the coming year, we are committed to initiating more innovative approaches to continue to create a Western Massachusetts where everyone has access to healthy food, regardless of their circumstances. Our Board of Directors and staff are currently studying the feasibility of purchasing and operating a second farm. In addition, we are now collaborating with the EOS Foundation in Boston to promote the adoption of school breakfasts in the classroom as a proven strategy to increase student participation in the federally-subsidized school breakfast program. Lastly, we will engage in a dialogue with diverse community stakeholders across Berkshire, Franklin, Hampden and Hampshire Counties to chart a plan of action to end hunger in the years to come.
Hunger is a societal challenge that can only be solved if and when everyone comes together with the resolve to put an end to it — non-profit organizations, private businesses and local, state and federal governments. We all have a role to play.
You have an opportunity to take action and support our community. In partnership with Hilltown Families, The Food Bank will be hosting a special “Giving at Thanksgiving” Family Volunteer Day on Saturday, November 14 from 9 – 11 a.m. This will be a fun opportunity to learn about the issue of food insecurity in our region and the impact it has on the community. All ages are welcome, as families are invited to tour The Food Bank and help prepare food to be distributed to pantries and meal sites across Western Massachusetts. Reservations are required by contacting The Food Bank’s Education Coordinator at 413-247-9738 or sign up here. For more information about this event, as well as other ways you can take action, visit http://www.foodbankwma.org.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Chris Wojcik is the Marketing & Communications Manager at The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts. The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts is committed to feeding our neighbors in need and leading the community to end hunger. Founded in 1982, The Food Bank is the leading provider of emergency food that reaches individuals and families in Berkshire, Franklin, Hampshire and Hampden counties. From their warehouse in Hatfield, they distribute food to their member agencies (which include food pantries, meal sites and shelters) throughout the region. They continue to build a stronger community through a variety of initiatives, including our Mobile Food Bank, SNAP outreach, nutrition education, and our Brown Bag: Food for Elders program.