By Theresa Knapp
On Saturday, Dec. 17, the Medway Village Church Food Pantry set a record when it fed 563 people (230 children, 310 adults, and 23 senior citizens) from 146 households, and distributed toys and gifts to more than 250 children and teens.
Food Pantry Director Susan Dietrich says that includes more than 1,100 pounds of produce from The Greater Boston Food Bank, Medway Community Farm, and Broken Fork Farm featuring Mel’s Plant Stand.
“We used to have 35 families a week, 140 families a month; we just had 146 families in one day and that change has just happened over the last 12 to 18 months, since the height of the pandemic,” Dietrich said, noting clients are mostly from Medway, Milford and Bellingham, but they also serve families from Hopedale, Millis, Upton, and beyond.
Toy and gift donations came from Cub Scout Pack 748, BSA Troop 367, the Saint Joseph Parish’s giving tree, Vivint Home Security, Dollar Tree in Franklin, and several other private donors. The Saint Joseph Parish Middle School Youth Group also donated mason jar cookie kits for food pantry patrons.
The food pantry also gave out $6,000 in gift cards, each valued at $40 for either Shaw’s or Stop & Shop.
Dietrich said the gift cards were provided by the Greater Boston Food Bank during previous months but local organizers decided to hold them until December when they realized Christmas fell on a Saturday, meaning the food pantry would be closed and their clients would have to go two weeks without visiting.
She noted the GBFB was able to give gift cards at Thanksgiving but was not able to do so at Christmas due to increased costs.
“We have seen tremendous inflation in what we have been spending in order to keep our shelves stocked,” she said.
Village Church Food Pantry volunteers included Director Susan Dietrich, Jennifer Hammer Tomasetti and Marilyn Conley. Courtesy photo.
Pre-pandemic, they would pay approximately $700 for 2,000 to 2,500 pounds of food from the GBFB twice a month; now they pay approximately $2,500 for 4,500 pounds of food twice a month.
Medway Village Church Food Pantry relies on private donations plus state grants and programs to stock its shelves. Dietrich said some programs are ending at a time when community demand is increasing.
“For several families, it is a devastating moment for them to walk through the door because they can’t believe they’re here,” Dietrich said. “We work hard to make them feel welcome and comfortable, and that’s one of the reasons our pantry is set up to be 100 choice. It is a ‘shopping’ experience, it is not ‘here is a prepacked bag of goods;’ they get to choose what they need.”
The Medway Village Church Food Pantry is now accepting donations to restock its shelves, particularly personal hygiene items (toothbrushes, toothpaste, larger sized diapers, baby wipes), paper towels, toilet paper, laundry detergent, etc.
For more information, visit them on Facebook @Medway Village Church Food Pantry.