Nonprofit grants to combat food insecurity in region

  • The Salvation Army of Athol, at 107 Ridge Ave. in Athol, has been named the recipient of a $35,000 grant from the Community Foundation of North Central Massachusetts, in partnership with the United Way of North Central Massachusetts. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern D-Worcester, center, talks with those gathered at the former Pleasant Street School in Athol last month for the announcement of $1.05 million in congressionally-directed spending for the building to be reused as a shared-use community kitchen and business incubator. LaunchSpace, which leases the former school, also received a $35,000 grant from the Community Foundation of North Central Massachusetts, in partnership with the United Way of North Central Massachusetts. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 3/29/2022 12:22:41 PM

ATHOL — Five Franklin County and North Quabbin organizations are set to benefit from $148,100 in grant funding from the Community Foundation of North Central Massachusetts, in partnership with the United Way of North Central Massachusetts.

The Franklin County Community Meals Program in Greenfield, LaunchSpace in Orange and the Salvation Army Athol Corps were named recipients of $35,000 each, while Orange’s Quabbin Food Connector will get $22,500 and the Seeds of Solidarity Education Center receives $20,600. The $148,100 in federal reimbursement grants, available through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, are part of $543,600 going to 16 organizations to combat food insecurity and support nutritional equity.

The Community Foundation of North Central Massachusetts is a nonprofit that manages charitable funds established by individuals, families, businesses and other nonprofit organizations.

Franklin County Community Meals Program

Rachel Berggren, executive director of the Franklin County Community Meals Program, said the $35,000 will go toward purchasing refrigerating equipment to increase the organization’s storage capacity and toward renting, staffing and electricity at its sites in Orange and Greenfield. The organization recently bought a van for mobile outreach services, and Berggren said some money will be used for the vehicle’s maintenance and insurance.

“This grant is a huge lifesaver,” she said. “Funds like this are essential in making us feel supported.”

Berggren said the COVID-19 pandemic only exacerbated the problem the meals program tries to address.


Brianna Drohen, co-founder and CEO of LaunchSpace, said the $35,000 will be used to buy equipment to help start a shared-use commercial kitchen and event space at the former Pleasant Street School in Athol.

“Our goal is ... to be able to provide the underserved community with weekly meals for pickup or delivery,” she said, adding that LaunchSpace expects to open the commercial kitchen in the fall. Drohen said the money will also go toward hiring someone to help with program development.

LaunchSpace, a member-based makerspace located in the Orange Innovation Center, also held a get-together last month to celebrate nearly $1.05 million in congressional funding that will bring the kitchen and event space to fruition. The 24,000-square-foot facility is also expected to house child care, a classroom for business resource education, small business incubation suites, and small-scale agriculture.

Salvation Army

The Salvation Army of Athol, at 107 Ridge Ave., will designate its $35,000 to subsidize the fuel and upkeep of vehicles to be used to deliver hot meals. Corps Commanding Officer Esther Wilson said the program has not started yet, but two people will be hired to help with the delivery process. She said the plan is to provide food on Tuesday evenings and by appointment, and the frequency might increase when “we get a rhythm going.”

Wilson said the Salvation Army is incredibly thankful to be a grant recipient.

“I felt so blessed that we were entrusted with this grant, (so) that we can do all that we can do to help feed the people that need to be fed in this region,” she said. “It was definitely a gift.”

Quabbin Food Connector

Pat Larson, a board member of Quabbin Food Connector, said the $22,500 reimbursement grant will be used in partnership with the Quabbin Harvest Food Co-op, Valuing Our Children and other local organizations. The first module of this program will begin in April in partnership with Valuing Our Children, which provides prevention of child abuse through family support, parenting education and community development.

Between now and June, some eligible households in Orange and Athol will receive “protein bundles” with meat and other items, along with recipes and cooking tips put together by Quabbin Harvest.

“At this point, planning for this program is happening,” Larson said in an emailed statement. “It is planned that the first bundle will contain chicken from Diemand Farm in Wendell and eggs from Fallen Oak Farm in Wendell, along with other food items.”

Seeds of Solidarity

Deb Habib, executive director of Seeds of Solidarity, said its $20,600 will enable her organization to launch Solidarity Farmshares, a program providing fresh produce to low-income families, as well as gardening activities and recipes to promote pleasurable family time and well-being. The nonprofit encourages and teaches people to “grow food everywhere.”

“We appreciate the efforts of colleagues and funders in north central Massachusetts to reach out to the North Quabbin region through this CARES Act funding,” Habib said in an emailed statement.

Reach Domenic Poli at or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.


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