Share the Bounty fundraising campaign to feed the hungry

  • A group from Green Fields Market gathers at the meal site for the Franklin County Community Meals Program, which is holding its Share the Bounty fundraising campaign through December to feed people throughout the county and North Quabbin area. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 11/20/2019 10:59:55 PM

Every time a new group helps the Franklin County Community Meals Program serve a hot meal for the first time, its members are astonished at how many of their neighbors are hungry, the nonprofit’s executive director says.

Andrea Leibson said the program has once again, for the 13th year in a row, started its Share the Bounty fundraising campaign, which will run now through December. She said, as usual, the Franklin County Community Meals Program is hoping to raise as much money as possible over the next month and a half so that it can continue to feed people throughout the county.

“We ask people to share the joy of a good meal by helping ensure that someone else less fortunate can do the same,” Leibson said.

Diners and visitors of Atlas Farm in South Deerfield, Bridgeside Grille in Sunderland, the Four Leaf Clover in Bernardston, Magpie in Greenfield, Pekarski’s Sausage in South Deerfield, The People’s Pint in Greenfield, Rise Above in Greenfield and The Whistle Stop Cafe in Millers Falls are invited to make donations to the Franklin County Community Meals Program in specially marked envelopes or collection jars.

The program works with more than 40 volunteer groups to serve four free community meals each week in Greenfield, Turners Falls and Orange, and in addition, oversees two food pantries: one at Greenfield Community College that serves staff and students and one in Orange for county and North Quabbin area residents.

Leibson said the volunteer groups include schools, banks, businesses, civic groups, women’s groups and more.

The nonprofit’s two pantries serve about 500 families each month, while, Leibson said, the meal in Turners Falls serves about 30 to 40 people a week, the one in Greenfield serves anywhere from 60 to 120 a week, and the one in Orange serves about 55 to 60 people a week. For the past three to four years, the nonprofit has served about 23,000 meals each year.

Financial donations help leverage resources to provide food through a partnership with the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, and it also partners with the United Way of Franklin County and Community Action Pioneer Valley.

Leibson said the Franklin County Community Meals Program’​​​​​​​s budget is $140,000 a year, and much of that is raised by the nonprofit. She said it also writes grants and receives help from the United Way of Franklin County and Community Action Pioneer Valley.

“We raise the money for equipment and operating expenses, as well as rent and utilities at our site in Orange,” she said. “FCCMP employs eight part-time people.”

Leibson said numerous groups help each week with the meals. For instance, Eaglebrook School will serve an upcoming dinner. The groups provide the food, cook and serve it.

“Some sites don’t have as many groups to help, so our volunteers have to provide and pay for the food, cook it and serve it,” she said. “We’ve been doing this year-round for 35 years. We’d love to put ourselves out of business, because that would mean people would no longer be hungry.”

Leibson said throughout the year, the Franklin County Community Meals Program​​​​​​​ collects food donations, but during the campaign, it is monetary donations the nonprofit seeks so that it can pay its bills and salaries.

She said the meals are hot and typically consist of a salad, fruit, vegetable and a healthy entree. She said a wide variety of food — about half is fresh — can be found in the pantries.

“We’ve gone way beyond peanut butter and pasta to help our neighbors in need,” Leibson said.

Elderly residents also attend the meals, she said, because they’re often living on a strict budget.

“Some of them are shut in all day and this is the only time they get to socialize,” she said. “I just want people to think about their neighbors and about helping others, especially this time of year. We all want to make sure everyone is fed, because adults have a difficult time taking care of their children if they’re hungry, and children have a difficult time learning if they’re hungry.”

The nonprofit was established in 1984, when the social justice group at All Souls Church in Greenfield wanted to start a program of free meals for residents of Franklin County, and invited religious and social organizations to provide and serve the meals. The first meal was served in Greenfield in July 1984. Later, the sites in Turners Falls and Orange opened.

The Orange Food Pantry opened in 1995, and the one at GCC opened in 2011.

Meals are served at 5:30 to 6 p.m. (doors open at 5 p.m.) at the three meal sites: Monday at Our Lady of Peace Church on 7th Street in Turners Falls; Tuesday and Wednesday at the Second Congregational Church on Court Square in Greenfield; and Thursday at the Orange Armory on East Main Street in Orange.

The Orange Food Pantry on East Main Street in Orange is open Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The GCC pantry is open at different times during the school day.

“We feed a lot of people and get a lot of help,” Leibson said. “We would love for more people and groups to join us.”

For more information or to make a donation, visit: fccmp.org.

Reach Anita Fritz at
413-772-0261, ext. 269 or afritz@recorder.com.


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