Annual food drive needed more than ever
The fifth annual Community Aid Network drive to feed the hungry will be held today, collecting food and cash donations.
Iris Broudy, an organizer, said Friday that the yearly food drive, held since 2009, collects “a mountain of food” for the town’s three food pantries — at the United Church of Christ, St. Francis Roman Catholic Church and Christ Community Church (Dwight Chapel) — and for the Amherst Survival Center, which is used by many Belchertown residents.
For today’s event, volunteers will collect nonperishable goods and cash donations at three Belchertown markets: Stop & Shop, 45 Federal St.; Checkers General Store, 33 State St., and Dwight Station Mini Mart, 1066 Federal St.
People also can drop off food or cash donations at Town Hall, Lawrence Memorial Hall, and cash only at the Belchertown transfer station, 135 Hamilton St., which closes at 3:15 p.m., Broudy said.
The nonpartisan community service group, comprising about 70 volunteers, has placed colored paint cans in about 25 retail locations and at the Clapp Memorial Library, seeking cash donations. Food pantries use the cash to purchase food at wholesale prices, according to Broudy.
The group collected $1,900 from its donation cans and $3,500 during its 2011 food drive, Broudy said. A snowstorm during last year’s collection day reduced the amount of cash collected, she said, only $1,100 from the cans and $2,100 at the food-collection spots.
CAN also regularly collects food donations at the Belchertown Stop & Shop store that yields about 1,000 pounds of food monthly, Broudy said.
“It’s been enormously successful,” she said. “We’ve placed collection bins at the front of the store and people have started catching on to it. We have so much being donated that we have to pick it up almost weekly.” Food from the ongoing collection is shared among the four food pantries, Broudy said.
Another volunteer, Bob Livingston, said food donations peaked during the holidays, but have dropped off significantly.
Robert Thrasher, a volunteer at the United Church of Christ pantry, said state budget cuts have reduced the amount of food the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts can provide to local pantries, while demand for services is growing.
Broudy said that although the economy is showing signs of recovery, pantries are facing greater demand than ever.
“If you talk to the food bank, if you talk to the (volunteers at) the pantries, they’ll tell you that they are seeing people coming who have never turned to food pantries before,” she said.
Broudy said CAN volunteers are hopeful that tomorrow’s Super Bowl game will bring more shoppers to local markets and give the food drive an added boost. Volunteers will approach shoppers on their way into markets with lists of the most-needed food pantry items and ask that some of those items be purchased and donated, she said.
“Even though the Patriots aren’t in this year’s Super Bowl, we’re hoping local residents will all be out shopping for snacks,” she said. “We hope that while they’re doing their own shopping, they’ll pick up some items for us.”
e_SEmD ETTA WALSH