Brown bag collection to help neighbors in need

  • Franklin County Community Meals Program volunteers collected 1,450 bags of food as part of the annual Brown Bag Brigade in 2020. The program will accept donations of brown bags filled with nonperishable food on Sunday, Feb. 21. STAFF FILE PHOTO/MAX MARCUS

Staff Writer
Published: 2/17/2021 9:19:19 AM

The Franklin County Community Meals Programs is calling on residents to participate in its annual Brown Bag Brigade by putting together, and decorating, bags full of food for neighbors in need.

Once filled and decorated, these bags can be dropped off for donation on Sunday, Feb. 21, between 4 and 6 p.m. at the Second Congregational Church, 16 Court Square. A two-minute video on how to pack the bags while following COVID-19 health safety guidelines, as well as a link for monetary donations that support the purchase of brown bags contents, can be found at fccmp.org/bbb2021.

Executive Director Rachel Berggren said the community support for the Brown Bag Brigade is instrumental in the Franklin County Community Meals Program’s ability to provide for those in need. Donated bags should include meals of nutritious, nonperishable foods. If donors choose, bags can be decorated as a fun activity for children and families.

According to a newsletter announcement for the Feb. 21 collection, in previous years, the Brown Bag Brigade has allowed the Franklin County Community Meals Program to provide additional shelf-stable meals to patrons of its Greenfield meal site to take home after enjoying a hot sit-down meal. In the past year, however, since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the meals program used the bags across all of its sites to ensure people were fed when it was unable to use area kitchens due to health safety restrictions.

Over time, the program adopted new models and protocols in partnership with its sites in Greenfield, at the Second Congregational Church, and Turners Falls, at Our Lady of Peace Church, where staff are now distributing hot to-go meals. The Orange meal site, however, has been unable to use the kitchen it used before the pandemic due to mandates from the Orange Board of Health. The meals program’s “stash” of brown bags had allowed its staff to provide food in Orange, and a recent partnership now sees Hillside Organic Catering providing weekly hot meals at the Orange Armory from 5 to 5:30 p.m. each Thursday.

Suggested foods and goods to include in the brown bags are: granola bars, bottled water, canned pasta, chicken noodle soup, peanut butter crackers, hot cocoa, tuna, macaroni and cheese, juice boxes, soup cups, pop-top cans of soup and stew, oatmeal cups, fruit cups, apple sauce and single-pack desserts.

To share in the fun, the Franklin County Community Meals Program is encouraging participants to let their neighbors know about the Brown Bag Brigade by posting photos of their decorated bags, videos of their family packing and decorating them, or a photo of purchases to social media using the hashtag #BBB2021 and tag Franklin County Community Meals Program, @FCCMP on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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

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