$4K to fund Bernardston pop-up food pantry through November

  • Selectboard member Brian Keir loads boxes of food into vehicles during the first “pop-up” food pantry at the Bernardston Senior Center in April. Staff Photo/ZACK DeLUCA

  • According to Bernardston Senior Center Director Hayley Bolton, the first “pop-up” food pantry in April provided approximately 2,000 pounds of food to 82 households. Staff Photo/ZACK DeLUCA

  • Bernardston Senior Center Director Hayley Bolton checks seniors in as they pull up during the first “pop-up” food pantry in April. Staff Photo/ZACK DeLUCA

Staff Writer
Published: 7/12/2020 11:01:59 AM

BERNARDSTON — The Bernardston Senior Center’s “pop-up” food pantry is expected to continue through November, thanks to $4,000 in repurposed funding.

The Selectboard and Senior Center Director Hayley Bolton held a public hearing last week with Brian McHugh, community development director with the Franklin County Regional Housing & Redevelopment Authority (HRA), to discuss reallocating $4,000 of surplus funds from the town’s Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) revolving loan fund to support the pop-up pantry.

McHugh explained Bernardston could reallocate the money to other CDBG-eligible activities — the pop-up pantry included — but a public hearing is required to do so. The HRA is given a flat fee of $500 to prepare the paperwork involved, hold the public hearing and transfer the money to the town.

While there were no members of the public in attendance during last week’s hearing, Town Coordinator Louis Bordeaux said the Selectboard received several cards and letters in support of reallocating the money.

“I think it’s a great use of these funds,” McHugh said.

Having launched in April, Bolton said the program has become a vital service for seniors, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The pantry helps provide food security while keeping seniors away from high-risk areas, like the grocery store. The pop-up pantry operates as a drive-thru service, allowing seniors to safely remain in their vehicles while volunteers load the food in their trunks.

“One of the main reasons we’re doing it is so seniors don’t have to go to the grocery store,” Bolton said of the monthly pantry day. “We serve an average of 80 to 90 households a month.”

According to Bolton, the first pantry day provided around 2,000 pounds of food to 82 households. In May, 3,000 pounds of food was distributed to 90 households. Bolton said each box — filled with a variety of canned fruits and vegetables, grains, canned protein, dairy items and snacks — is roughly enough for three or four days of meals.

The Senior Center has been partnering with the Amherst Survival Center and Food Bank of Western Massachusetts to receive non-perishable food at no cost. But with the additional $4,000, the Senior Center can increase the variety and amount of fresh produce it offers. The money will be used specifically to buy fresh produce and personal care items, and will allow the program to extend through November.

The agreement for reallocating the money requires the Council on Aging to provide reports to the HRA on its use of the money following the completion of the pop-up pantry program. To officially accept the money, the Selectboard will need to conduct a final vote in favor of reallocating the $4,000, and sign a letter to request this action during its next meeting on July 15.

Zack DeLuca can be reached at zdeluca@recorder.com or 413-930-4579.

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