By Tammy Daniels
04:35PM / Monday, December 20, 2021
Volunteers Robert Dubreuil, left, Franklin Risatti and coordinator Richard Davis stack boxes of food at the food pantry on Monday.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The annual citywide food drive has collected a half-ton of packaged and canned foods and personal care items for the Al Nelson Friendship Center Food Pantry.
City workers aided by pantry volunteers and Mayor Thomas Bernard and Superintendent of School Barbara Malkas unloaded 1,150 pounds of goods on Monday morning.
All four schools, the Armory, greenhouse program, City Hall, the library, Spitzer Center and Police and Fire departments participated in the two-week "Restock the Shelves" drive.
The donations are always welcome but the need seems to have eased from last year, when the pantry was serving upwards of 140 people a week.
"As of January of 2021, our numbers just dropped in half and stayed pretty consistent since then," food coordinator Richard Davis said. "We don't exactly know why. There's probably a lot of different things that enter into it."
There may be more food resources available, he said, and more governmental assistance in terms of food stamps and payments during the pandemic.
"It's a substantial amount of money, right?" Davis said. "So we just think that there's more sources of funding or food available to people. We like to think maybe more people have found jobs and are able to better support themselves."
Some 60 to 70 people take advantage of the Eagle Street pantry weekly. It's open from 10 to 2 every Wednesday and makes deliveries on Thursday. About 70 to 75 percent of the fresh and nonperishable items come through Food Bank of Western Massachusetts and the balance of donations from local supermarkets, businesses and individuals.
Nearly two dozen volunteers work at the pantry, many of them have for years. "They know what our routine is and they're very devoted to the food pantry," Davis said.
On Monday, volunteers Franklin Risatti and Robert Dubreuil were on hand to help bring in and stack the delivery.
The city donations, launched when the pantry first opened in 2011, bring in some different items and offer those who use the pantry some variety, he said. "The can do a little extra shopping here."
Bernard said there's a need throughout the year but it can be more difficult for food-insecure people during the holidays, and its been tougher for some over the past nearly two years of the pandemic.
"I'm grateful to everyone in the city and the school district and the members of the community who support this every year," he said. "We just know that throughout the year, but certainly at the holidays, not to be Dickensian about it, these are the times where that little extra bit of generosity really makes a difference."