New Salem Public Library hosting new Grab-and-Go Meals Program

By DOMENIC POLI

Staff Writer

Published: 04-03-2023 12:35 PM

NEW SALEM — Through a new offering at the New Salem Public Library, the Greenfield-based Franklin County Community Meals Program hopes to provide residents with nourishment while destigmatizing food insecurity.

Anyone is welcome to stop by the library at 23 South Main St. during open hours and help themselves to the free food and beverages available in the white Frigidaire refrigerator in the community room. Lisa DeWitt, the meal site coordinator for the food program’s Northfield location, started the Grab-and-Go Meals Program in New Salem in February and said the idea has already caught on.

“So far it’s been taking off really well,” she said. “Most of my stuff is gone every time I come in, which I was a little surprised about.”

DeWitt stocks the fridge, and its freezer, weekly with food she makes from ingredients that are left over from the grab-and-go site in Northfield. Vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options are available. The library is open from noon to 8 p.m. on Tuesdays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursdays and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays.

“Nothing is in here more than a week, and I live right down the street,” she said on March 28, when the fridge contained orange juice, seltzer, paper containers of hummus and plastic containers of Tuscan bean soup. “It’s just a good soup to make. It’s vegan, and I do actually have a lot of people that are vegetarian and vegan, so it helps that I have that in the rotation.”

Sue Dunbar, who is in charge of technical services at the New Salem Public Library, said the grab-and-go program is paying off in spades.

“On Saturday, we probably had 12 people come in, in a four-hour period, and that’s pretty good,” she said. “And what I love most about the program — and I’ve told this to many people — is that we don’t take names, we don’t check licenses, we don’t photograph people, we don’t count people. Anybody who wants food … is welcome to do it.

“And I take food to other people out in town,” she added. “And there are some people who come in and take six or seven things, but they’re for other people.”

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Dunbar also serves as treasurer at the Central Congregational Church, and because parishioners think so highly of the Franklin County Community Meals Program, she arranged to donate the church’s freezer so DeWitt can store more food at her home.

“There are some nights people just don’t want to cook. And I have tried one of everything she’s brought in, over a period of weeks,” Dunbar said with a laugh. “It’s been wonderful.”

DeWitt explained providing food for her community has been a constant in her life. She has catered fundraisers for North Quabbin Citizen Advocacy and held benefit barbecue chicken dinners for the 1794 Meetinghouse when she was its president.

“I love cooking,” she said. “I’m Italian, grew up cooking, and it was something that people were proud of in my house.”

Donations can be made to the Franklin County Community Meals Program at bit.ly/40SJDYQ.

The Grab-and-Go Meals Program is also sponsored by the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-930-4120.

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