GRAND SPRINGFIELD – Due to the increase in COVID-19 cases, several local pantries in East Longmeadow, Longmeadow, Hampden and Wilbraham are struggling to ensure food for their communities as the number of people attending daycare eating increases.
St. Michael’s Parish in East Longmeadow has been in operation since the late 1800s and moved to 128 Maple Street in 1970.
“The Pantry was formed to help the less fortunate and take care of those in town and surrounding areas who need help,” Minister of Pastoral Beth Chase said.
During the pandemic, Chase made bags of food for those who call and left them outside for them, so there is no contact with people coming to church. She also sends grocery cards to community members in order to meet state-imposed health guidelines.
“The need was greater because people lost their jobs,” Chase said. “It was different having to minister like that. I like human contact; to be able to see someone, to be able to put an arm around someone and to be able to reassure them and look them in the eyes. It is a difficult challenge to overcome. I just make sure everyone is taken care of, but also that we maintain the guidelines and I do that through mail, email, phone calls, packing things up and leaving them to those in need.
In terms of donations, what the ward typically does is in its weekly newsletter, which can be viewed online at stmichaelsel.org, it asks for specific things each week. Specifically, Chase said the parish was taking cereals, pasta, canned goods such as tuna, beans, pasta sauce, canned vegetables, rice, soups, macaroni and cheese and butter. peanut and jelly. They do not take fresh fruit, bread, clothes or diapers. The parish purchases basic items that are canned and will not spoil.
This Christmas, the parish continues to collect food for all those in need of food in the area locally. They have posted a list of toys they need online to donate to a local children’s charity. They will also collect grocery cards such as Target gift cards to give to another children’s charity for food, toys, or other items needed by Target for the holidays.
“We had to be very creative and think outside the box to get the food, gift cards and donations to arrive, but also to make sure that everything that goes to those who need it is done in a way that doesn’t. not spread the COVID 19 Virus, ”Chase replied. “We will continue to maintain and adhere to state health guidelines, and we will continue to collect from the parish and deliver it to those in need in the community in the safest way possible. “
For monetary donations, a check may be made payable to St. Michael’s Parish. Then in the line of the memo put Outreach Program and send it to the church at 128 Maple St., East Longmeadow, MA, 01028 Attention: Ms. Beth Chase, Minister of Pastoral Care.
Since the pandemic, the Longmeadow Food Pantry located at the Longmeadow Adult Center has been closed to the public. They only run their pantry on Fridays instead of Tuesdays and Fridays.
“We have certainly had a slight increase in the number of people who have required our services,” said Jim Leyden, director of the Longmeadow Council on Aging and Adult Center. The pantry is an extension of their department. “We offer our services one day a week on Friday. It’s now a drive-thru where people meet to come to the adult center, and then they get a bag of groceries and produce, fruit, frozen meat and other items.
The pantry could use canned goods, tuna, cereals, peanut butter and jelly, rice and pasta. Individualized juice boxes, instant oatmeal, canned fruit and canned mixed vegetables.
“All of these things are really important for us to make our bags when we distribute them to the community,” added Leyden. “Our plan is to keep moving forward. I think we have been very successful. I am very happy with the way the community has responded to our service and we will continue to do the same thing that we have been doing every week just to make sure the needs are met.
For food donations, residents can leave it outside the main entrance to the pantry and staff will ensure it enters the building. They can also call 565-4150 so they can meet with one of the staff outside to donate.
A monetary donation can be made to the Town of Longmeadow and in the memo it can be for the pantry at 231 Maple Rd., Longmeadow, MA 01106.
The Evangel Food Pantry in Wilbraham is part of the Evangel Assembly of God, located at 348 Stony Hill Rd., And is in partnership with the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts. The Pantry started in 1999, but at that time it was not connected to the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts as they had to operate and show they were serving the community before they could be a part of their network. The church buys food there very cheaply so that it can give it away for free.
“There have been shortages on their side with meat for example,” outreach pastor Lori Canaday said. “In that regard, it is sometimes difficult to get particular items, but we certainly had enough food for the customers as they pass by and they don’t leave hungry. “
People coming to the pantry must sign the paperwork required by the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts. Then they receive a ticket and drive their car down the aisle of the church where the volunteers will load their groceries into their car.
“We have definitely seen an increase in the number of customers,” Canaday said. “We had to make adjustments to some of our procedures to follow COVID-19 safety procedures, but we made all of these adjustments and were able to keep up with our regular hours. Overall it went pretty well. Our volunteers really got together and did a wonderful job to make sure everything went well. “
The adjustments they made that Canaday mentioned are more about the registration process. During the warmer weather, they got out in people’s cars rather than getting them into the building. With the colder weather here, the church is either going to keep doing it or it has to limit the number of people that come at a time.
The Evangel Food Pantry is currently looking for local grocers to partner with them by donating meat and produce. For monetary donations, a check to Evangel Assembly can be sent, and in the memo, the sender should write “Food Pantry”. Canaday said the best option was for them to make monetary donations so that they could purchase food from the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts. Residents can also visit their website greenwall.evangelassembly.org. click “donate” to where they can choose to donate to the pantry.
“In the meantime, our plan is to continue to be a consistent, cohesive force for people when they need it,” Canaday responded. “We plan to have more food on hand for the holidays, as long as our storage capacity allows.”
The Hampden Senior Center Food Pantry has been in existence for over 15 years. Due to the coronavirus, the Senior Center building was closed. Outreach Coordinator Wendy Cowles said, “Before, people could come in and walk into our pantry to pick out a bag or a box full of items. Now they can call and we let them know what we have in the pantry. We pack it for them and bring it outside because no one can enter the building.
Cowles continued, “What we’re doing, which is probably more beneficial to the local residents, is we run a brown bag program where we get pantry items from the Hatfield Food Bank. They deliver it to us at the senior center in bulk. Then we prepare bags for the people who applied to the program. “
The Brown Bag program takes place once a month on the third Tuesday. Currently, the Hampden Senior Center has about 108 bags that they pack each month. Almost half of these bags are delivered to residents of East Longmeadow and Hampden who cannot collect their own bags.
“We have a fair amount of items in our pantry. We have a lot of people who have been very generous in giving, ”Cowles told Reminder Publishing. “I think right now we’re fine because we get a monthly brown bag from the food bank. This is what we use to give to people who have signed up. The pantry is our support if people don’t get brown bags or want to sign up for brown bags, but they need something right away, we prepare a bag of groceries for them.
The center recently expanded its pantry to include personal care items: soap, shampoo, shower gel, deodorant, toilet paper and tissues. “We are also a SNAP satellite office,” said Cowles. “Anyone can call here and we can help them apply for SNAP, recertify or manage their SNAP account. “
The center will be hosting a Christmas dinner that people can pick up on December 24 at 1 p.m., which Cowles says members of the public should register in advance if they’re interested.
“We will still continue. If people need food, they can call us and come and get it. I’m happy to deliver food to them, ”Cowles replied. “We have lunch from Tuesday to Friday. They have to call ahead. It’s free, it’s a suggested donation of $ 2, but you don’t need to pay. It’s a great way to supplement if you’re looking for a meal. Again, this is something you need to sign up for. With the pantry, give us a call and we will provide the food for you or if you cannot enter we will provide it for you.
For those interested in the pantry, applying for programs, or donating food, contact the Hampden Senior Center at 566-5588.
The Hampden Senior Center is located at 104 Allen Street in Hampden.