Food insecurity rising in Western Mass. amid pandemic
SCOTT MERZBACHStaff Writer
Published: 6/3/2020 8:34:35 PM Greenfield Recorder
HATFIELD — Up to a quarter of all children in Western Massachusetts may not know where their next meal will come from, or may not easily be able to get fresh and healthy food, as hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic continue, according to a new study.
The report by Feeding America, the largest hunger-relief organization in the United States, anticipates a substantial increase in food insecurity and hunger in the region, and organizations including the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts are already feeling the impact. The food bank has already distributed 19 percent more emergency food in March and April this year compared with the same months last year.
Food Bank Executive Director Andrew Morehouse suspects this demand will continue to increase as unemployment remains high, making a recent virtual food drive known as the Millions of Meals Initiative critical to keeping the food supply intact for Pioneer Valley residents.
On Wednesday, in the parking lot at the nonprofit’s large Hatfield facility, the food bank and the Antonacci Family Foundation announced that the initiative reached a milestone of $250,000, with each dollar collected representing four meals.
“That’s 1 million meals we’ve been able to provide now that we wouldn’t have been able to two months ago,” Morehouse said.
The virtual food drive kicked off last month with a $125,000 donation that Frank M. Antonacci, chief operating officer of USA Waste & Recycling and spokesperson for the foundation, said served as a way to rally support in the communities the company serves.
“The upcoming challenge is we do not forget those who have been harmed far beyond any end date to the pandemic,” Antonacci said.
Making financial contributions was seen as the most efficient way to increase the amount of food that could be distributed in the region, said Dennis Murphy, president of Ventry Associates, which handles business relations for the foundation.
“The idea was to encourage the community to rally and recognize the hardships caused by COVID,” Murphy said.
Morehouse said the food bank supports 51 Brown Bag: Food for Elders sites in Western Massachusetts, 21 of which are in Hampshire and Franklin counties; five mobile food pantries in the area, in Easthampton, Amherst, Greenfield, Turners Falls and Ware; and various agencies and nonprofits, such as the Amherst Survival Center, the Easthampton Community Center, the Center for Self-Reliance in Greenfield and the Franklin County Community Meals Program.
Hatfield Selectboard Chair Diana Szynal said the town takes pride in hosting the food bank and its service in providing healthy food to people and giving local farmers a place for their products to get to people.
Szynal praised the Antonacci Family Foundation and the people who have donated to the effort because of the local impact.
“When you make donations, it’s staying here and feeding people locally,” Szynal said.
In Northampton, the pandemic has exacerbated the situation for families and children facing hunger, said Alan Wolf, chief of staff for Mayor David Narkewicz. Wolf said the city is grateful for the financial support its programs are receiving.
Similarly, Easthampton relies on support from the food bank, said City Councilor Lindsey Rothschild. She added that it was nice to have some great news to share with her community.
How the money raised has been used can be seen firsthand inside the facility, where shelves are lined with thousands of pounds of food from federal and state programs, local and food bank farms, supermarkets and wholesale and retail food businesses, and community organizations and individuals.
Staff use forklifts, and their own muscles, to put the boxes on the shelves and into freezers, while volunteers make other boxes that will be brought to mobile food pantries.
Mike Cortis, who manages food operations at the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, said several orders using money from the Millions of Meals Initiative have focused on shelf-stable items, such as canned soups and different types of pasta. This has allowed the food bank to keep the shelves well stocked.
Morehouse said the only issue with using the virtual food drive money has been whether product arrives in a timely manner, with some shipments delayed due to the pandemic.
Rising food insecurityThe need is not expected to slow, as the Feeding America report, titled “The Impact of the Coronavirus on Local Food Insecurity,” shows that as many as one in seven adults, and one in four children, are food-insecure.
Even before the pandemic, 86,480 people and 22,650 children in Western Massachusetts did not have adequate access to nutritious food to live a healthy life. Estimates are that there’s been a 47 percent increase, to 127,090 people, and an even larger 62 percent increase to 36,620 children, in food insecurity in the last year.
■In Hampshire County, 13 percent of the population, or 20,570 individuals, are considered food-insecure, an increase of 56 percent, or 7,380 people. For children, 17 percent, or 4,180, are considered food-insecure, representing an 86 percent increase in the past year.
■In Franklin County, 14 percent of the population, or 9,650 individuals, are considered food-insecure, an increase of 53 percent, or 3,330 people. For children, 20 percent, or 2,480, are considered food-insecure, representing a 71 percent increase.
■In Berkshire County, 15 percent of the population, or 19,300 individuals, are considered food-insecure, a 52 percent, or 6,640-person increase. For children, 23 percent, or 5,090, are considered food-insecure, representing a 67 percent increase.
■Finally, in Hampden County, 17 percent of the population, or 77,570 individuals, are considered food-insecure, an increase of 43 percent, or 23,360 people. For children, 24 percent, or 24,870, are considered food-insecure, representing a 56 percent increase.
“As high unemployment persists, more households are at risk of hunger and food insecurity, uncertain how they are going to afford to buy food,” Morehouse said.
June is the month when the congregation runs the Hunger Doesn't Take the Summer Off food drive. Our neighbours are in need, more so than usual. And our neighbours are also helping each other.
We're not sure of the details on how we will run our food drive during this time of pandemic, but if you can pick-up non-perishable food items when you go shopping and keep them at home, know that we will be running the drive.
And as you can see in the article, every dollar provides 4 meals so your monetary contributions can actually go further than in-kind donations.
Whatever you can donate is appreciated.
The Conference has a beautiful retreat center in Sharon , CT. Due to the pandemic, all in-person programs have been cancelled for the summer, but they are offering at home activities.
For the full description of what is available, please click on the link at the end of this post.
What a great opportunity to be exposed to this facility and maybe get us to thinking about going in person when we are able.
Check it out and see if this is for you.
Silver Lake is committed to providing an opportunity to encounter God’s love in creation, a chance to be seen and loved for exactly who you are.
We deeply value the experience of each individual who comes to camp and want to ensure positive outcomes for all.We understand how much summer camp at Silver Lake means to you and your family.
All of the year-round staff at Silver Lake are lifelong camp people and are committed to continuing to nurture our faith community throughout the summer and beyond.
For 2020, Silver Lake at Home will focus on the four Silver Lake "Loves":
Love Your Neighbor;
and Love Creation.
This four-week program has a number of options so that you can customize an experience that is the best fit for your family.
Registration opens June 2. Some options have a small cost attached; some are free. Some options include in-person gatherings; some are self-study programs you can do with your family. Do as much or as little as you like!
Week 1, July 6-10: Love God
Week 2, July 13-17: Love Your Neighbor
Week 3, July 20-24: Love Yourself
Week 4, July 27-31: Love creation
Our 350th Anniversary
We encourage your engagement with the history of our church. If, for example, you are a descendant of Rev. William Williams, or you were present in person when the congregation voted to join the UCC, or if you would like to share some other information or anecdote about the church, please add it through the comment section. In this way, the history of our church is made more alive.
Youth Group Flower Sale - May 16th.
The church Youth Group is again this year running a Spring Flower Sale. If you are not on the church email list and would like to receive an order form, please drop me an email (email@example.com).
The order deadline is May 10th.
Thank you for supporting the young people of the congregation.
Good Friday, April 10th
Jesus’ closing words to us from John's account of the Last Supper are “Love one another.” The Board of Deacons will give us a chance to put this commandment into practice on Good Friday.
During the time that the church is open from noon until 3:30pm, a large container will be placed by the sidewalk off of Billings Way. We are conducting a “Drive By Food Drive.”
Donations may be dropped off with a quick stop. The Food Bank has issued an urgent appeal for help. So many of our neighbours have lost jobs. The economy is in a recession. More people than ever need food assistance. If you can help in kind, thank you.
If you can help with a monetary donation which goes even further, please come inside the church and a collection basket will be at the entrance to the sanctuary. Please make checks payable to "The Western Mass Food Bank." For every $1 we donate the Food Bank is able to provide 4 meals. For every $1 we donate they can purchase $7 worth of food.
On Good Friday, let us remember Jesus’ sacrifice both spiritually and charitably. Please share this announcement with your friends. Thank you.
So we have time on our hands. The pandemic has forced us to spend time at home. Too much television will rot the brain. Instead, let's read "To Kill a Mocking Bird," and then talk about it once this confinement is over. There is a theme of separation that runs throughout this marvelous book. Maybe the pandemic will open that up to us. If you're interested, please let me know.
CHANGE OF PLANS FROM EARLIER POSTING!!!
I am sorry to say, but we have decided to cancel meeting in church for our Service tomorrow due to concerns raised by the Corona Virus pandemic. I hate having to do this, but it is prudent.
So that we may maintain some sort of corporate worship, we will gather together in the virtual reality of live streaming. This will begin as our custom at 10AM and last about 30 minutes. I will share some of the prayers from the bulletin, the Bible readings, a short sermon and some announcements.
This will be my first attempt at this. It should be interesting to say the least!
If you are on the church's email list, you will be receiving an email with instructions on how to participate in our virtual worship.
If you are not on the list and would like to participate, please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will forward the log in instructions to you.
We are doing this to protect the physical health of those who worship with us, and we are doing this to care for the spiritual health of the same. This is still Lent, a deeply spiritual time. It won't be the same, but I hope you'll join us in "the cloud" for worship tomorrow.
Our Lenten Discussion is still taking place on Wednesday, March 11th, at the Montague Congregational Church, beginning at 7:00pm.
However, Rev. Sherril Willis will present at that time. Rev. Candi Ashenden will then present on the 25th in Hatfield.
This Wednesday, February 26th, is Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the Season of Lent. Lent's 40 days draw us back to Jesus' 40 days in the desert after His baptism by John.
During this period of solitude, Jesus confronted His temptations and emerged stronger in His conviction to be and to do what God intended.
Lent is our opportunity of introspection and examination. It is our chance to re-focus our lives and to give them a more profound spiritual grounding and direction.
The whole of the season is in front of us. This is our opportunity to make the most of it.
I invite you to journey with us at Hatfield Congregational Church. Please feel free to join us at worship, at Bible study or at our Lenten Discussions, the schedule of which is below.
A crucified Saviour is a daunting task to contemplate, but one well worth these coming 40 days.
Thank you to the Youth Group members and their families for this evening's Spaghetti Supper. They volunteered their time and even some of the ingredients.
Thank you also to Stop and Shop Supermarket in Northampton, Big Y Supermarket in Northampton, Hatfield Beef and the Texas Roadhouse Restaurant in Hadley for their very generous donations.
Thank you to Sue M. for her famous hot fudge sauce, and to Carol and Joann for taking care of dessert prep., and to all those who baked brownies for us.
The profits from this evening's supper will allow our young people to plan more activities, so thank you also to the 80 of you who supported our efforts this evening. Much appreciated.
Faith, love and chitchat.
Sunday 10-11am (9:30am July + August)
Children Sunday School 10-11am
Nursery care available during worship