Amherst Survival Center tweaks hours amid growing demand 

  • Amherst Survival Center volunteers Hannah Hart, right, and her children Willa, left, and Geir, all of Amherst, sort produce, bread, and other food items that just arrived by van outside the North Amherst facility on Thursday morning, April 2, 2020. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 5/4/2020 1:53:12 PM

AMHERST — Revisions to the daily food and hot meal distribution at the Amherst Survival Center are being made as the North Amherst site continues to see a spike in demand for its nutritional services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Monday, the center, at 138 Sunderland Road, announced that its walk-in hours would start at noon, instead of 11 a.m., and that the lunch, produce and bread distribution, and food pantry pick-ups would be scaled back to three hours each weekday except Wednesday when the location is closed.

Executive Director Lev Ben-Ezra said the idea of reducing the window for providing food will actually allow the center to feed more people, observing that the center is already serving 50% more lunches a day than prior to the pandemic, and beginning in mid-April the lunches have periodically run out. The later opening will give staff and volunteers more time to prepare and then serve up to 200 lunches per day. That represents double the number of lunches served pre-pandemic.

“This extra hour will also allow us to increase the number of families we can deliver groceries to,” Ben-Ezra said.

Carleen Basler, the program director, cites efficiency as the way forward in providing more food.

“We are making this change because we are confident we can continue to serve the same number of people in the food pantry on site, serve more lunches, and deliver more food to those who can’t get here due to transportation, lack of childcare, or their health,” Basler said.

The decision also comes as the Survival Center works with more area organizations to get food to residents, including having the Amherst Senior Center and Big Brothers Big Sisters deliver groceries pre-packaged at the center to their clients. The center is also delivering pre-boxed groceries to area apartment complexes, where staff assists in either doorstep delivery or outdoor distribution.

The center is hoping to recruit additional “site partners” to deliver pre-ordered food to apartment complexes and public spaces, such as school or library parking lots, in the 13 communities it serves, as well as to do more outreach to those in need. In addition, the Amherst Survival Center is offering pre-scheduled curbside pick-up for individuals in high-risk categories for contracting COVID-19.

Ben-Ezra said the center needs the community’s help more than at any time previously and has established the COVID-19 Hunger Response Fund at to sustain operations.

“We could not do what we are doing without the incredible volunteers and all of those who have made financial gifts,” Ben-Ezra said.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at

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