High demand for Thanksgiving items at local food pantries
Ginger Carrington of Greenfield and her six year old daughter Nataliah pick up some food for the holidays from the Center for Self Reliance on Osgood ST in Greenfield as Natasha Lowe and Nathan Page keep the shelves stocked with incoming donations.
On Saturday [11/17/12] members of the local Boy Scout troops conducted the annual "Scouting For Food" food drive. Starting last Saturday, members of Troops 5 & 16, Pack 3 and the Greenfield High School Student Council placed grocery bags on the doors of Greenfield residents asking for food donations to help the Franklin Area Survival Center (located in Turners Falls). A week later, scouts and volunteers collected the filled bags and returned them to the 1st Congregational Church where the contents were organized and repacked for delivery. This year, the Scouts successfully collected about two tons of food donations. The "Scouting For Food" donation drive has been an annual event in Greenfield since 1998. About fifty scouts and volunteers participated under the leadership of Past Scout Master Russ Kimball this year. For the record, this year we arrived at about 3300+ lbs
In the weeks and months leading up to Thanksgiving, local food pantries were overwhelmed by people looking for food for their holiday meals, according to coordinators.
The Center for Self-Reliance — a Greenfield pantry operated by human services organization Community Action — served about 1,300 people through Nov. 20, said Coordinator Dino Schnelle. That is about the same as the total amount of people who came in during the whole month of October, he said.
And at the Franklin Area Survival Center in Turners Falls, workers were “inundated” with clients all month, said Faith Rockwood, president of the center’s board of directors.
“In some cases it was over 50 families a day coming in,” she said.
It’s a trend seen across the entire region, said Sarah Gibbons, communications manager for the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts.
Families are “under pressure to provide that Thanksgiving meal for their families,” she said. “It’s something they should be able to do, but something they’re not able to afford.”
Turkey donations stretched thin
But Gibbons said that Thanksgiving also brings an uptick in donations.
“It’s a time of the year when it’s kind of obvious to everyone how important food is,” she said. “This time of year really kind of solidifies and underscores the importance of food in bringing families together.”
Donations helped the food bank secure 8,000 turkeys this year — an increase of 2,300 from last year, said Gibbons.
That number includes 900 “flat” turkeys — gift cards donated by Stop & Shop, which allows people to pick up their turkey at any time. The gift card donation, which the store has done in years past, helps those who have limited freezer space or can’t get to a pantry the day before Thanksgiving, said Gibbons.
But because the Hatfield-based food bank distributes food to about 300 member agencies across western Massachusetts, even the increased turkey supply was stretched thin.
Rockwood said that at the Survival Center, 127 families received turkeys as a part of their monthly allotment, she said. The center, not able to rely strictly on donations, purchases between 75 to 80 percent of its food.
Clients were also able to get vegetables and side dishes, thanks in part to a 3,371-pound donation by Greenfield Boy Scouts troops — a donation that Rockwood said came “at the best time ever.”
The Center for Self-Reliance received 48 turkeys this year, a decrease of 37 birds from last year, said Schnelle.
With over 500 families coming to the pantry each month, only the largest families were able to receive one of those turkeys this year, he said.
Schnelle said that if the pantry purchased more turkeys, or even chickens, it would mean less food overall.
“It’s always the classic question,” he said. “Are you going to spend $6 to give someone a turkey or chicken, or are you going to be spending the money to get everything else that goes with it?”
You can reach Chris Shores at:
or 413-772-0261, ext. 264