South Hadley neighbors contribute 40,000 pounds of food during Bag the Community drive

Staff Writer
Published: 1/21/2020 10:14:31 PM

SOUTH HADLEY — With help from hundreds of volunteers and as many as 6,000 households, the Neighbors Helping Neighbors Food Pantry collected an estimated 40,000 pounds of food during its annual Bag the Community drive over the weekend.

Organizers have described the drive, held to coincide with Martin Luther King Jr. Day, as a “day on” during what people often think of as a day off. 

“We so appreciate the generosity of the community giving their time, giving their checks and giving the food,” said pantry operations manager Mary Lou Guarnera. “It’s just a remarkable thing to see.”

On Sunday, volunteers left brown paper bags with orange tags at the doorstep of 6,000 residences. Community members are encouraged to fill these bags with donations, which are picked up by volunteers the next day.

The pantry does not track just how many people volunteer, but hundreds of community members work to make the event possible each year — and continue to pitch in after the drive is over. As Guarnera spoke with the Gazette, she worked with 25 Deerfield Academy students to help sort the donations. 

Donations from Bag the Community provide the pantry with nearly half of its annual resources. Although this year’s donations are similar to previous totals, the pantry is experiencing unprecedented demand as people face increased limitations on food stamps.

Although the drive is over, residents can continue to donate to the pantry throughout the year. The pantry has particular need for cereal; spaghetti sauce and other tomato products; canned proteins, soups and fruits; cake and muffin mixes; and personal and household supplies.  

The Neighbors Helping Neighbors Food Pantry is located at 30 Carew St. in the United Methodist Church. It is open from 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Wednesdays and 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday, and also offers a delivery service for those unable to access the pantry in person.


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