Franklin County Community Meals Program launching new Northfield meal site

  • Joanne McGee of the Trinitarian Congregational Church of Northfield and Franklin County Community Meals Program Executive Director Rachel Berggren with supplies for the new meal site at the church. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • Franklin County Community Meals Program Executive Director Rachel Berggren and Joanne McGee of the Trinitarian Congregational Church of Northfield with supplies for the new meal site at the church. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • Franklin County Community Meals Program Executive Director Rachel Berggren and Joanne McGee of the Trinitarian Congregational Church of Northfield at the rear of the church where meals will get picked up. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

Staff Writer
Published: 9/20/2021 4:21:44 PM

NORTHFIELD — A new free community meal site will open in town on Sept. 23, thanks to a partnership with the Franklin County Community Meals Program.

Those in need of a free hot meal will be able to go to the Trinitarian Congregational Church at 147 Main St. from 5 to 6 p.m. on the fourth Thursday of each month.

Franklin County Community Meals Program Executive Director Rachel Berggren said that when the Trinitarian Congregational Church approached her nonprofit in hopes of launching a new meal site, she “enthusiastically said yes, knowing the needs of rural communities and their disconnect from more central service areas such as Greenfield.”

“Our goal is to address and alleviate hunger across Franklin County,” Berggren said. “We will always do our best to build resources and partnerships to help accomplish this mission.”

Like the models used at other meal sites, she said the Franklin County Community Meals Program will operate out of the church’s kitchen and serve to-go meals in accordance with COVID-19 health safety guidelines. While the meals program will cook the first meal on Sept. 23, consecutive meals will be provided by various local organizations that have volunteered to host recurring meals.

“The whole community is welcome to partake in a meal on Sept. 23 for the first of many meals at this new location,” Berggren said. “If you or anyone you know is in need of food, please spread the word about these resources.”

“We are really looking forward to this new partnership” said Trinitarian Congregational Church Rev. Rosemary Dawson. “For us, our commitment is to serve our neighbors and to welcome any and all to our door.”

Other local churches and groups will oversee future dinners at the Trinitarian Community Church, including Thomas Aquinas College, St. Patrick’s Church, First Parish of Northfield Unitarian and the Community Bible Church.

Berggren said the Franklin County Community Meals Program’s free meals model is one that is dependent on the civil service of its community. Each meal site runs thanks to volunteer groups coming together to cook a meal for their neighbors in need, and Berggren said the meals program is always looking for new groups to volunteer.

The meals program already operates three free community meal sites: on Mondays from 4 to 6 p.m. at Our Lady of Peace Church, 90 7th St. in Turners Falls; on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 4:45 to 5:45 p.m. at the Second Congregational Church, 116 Court Square in Greenfield; and on Thursdays from 5 to 5:30 p.m. at the Orange Armory, 135 East Main St. in Orange.

In addition to these free community meals, the Franklin County Community Meals Program operates two food pantries and a mobile food bank. With the rise of food insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic, Berggren said the nonprofit is taking on new programs and partnerships to continue to address the need.

According to Project Bread, an organization working to provide food assistance for Massachusetts families, pre-pandemic food insecurity across Massachusetts was at 8.2 percent. At the peak of the pandemic, these rates reached 19.6 percent. Although food insecurity is now declining, a decrease to pre-pandemic rates is believed to be unlikely, at least for quite some time. According to Feeding America, after the Great Recession, it took 10 years for food insecurity rates to go back down.

For more information on how to get involved or to donate to the Franklin County Community Meals Program, contact Rachel Berggren at 413-772-1033 or fccmp.ma@gmail.com.

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


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