Helping Neighbors Campaign Will See Pantry Through Busy Winter

By: Tim Wood

Helping Neighbors donations will see the Family Pantry through the winter. FILE PHOTO

Now that the new year is here and winter has settled in with a vengeance, the Family Pantry of Cape Cod is likely to see an uptick in business, as local residents spend more on heat and electricity and have less to spend on food.

“This weather is not helping,” said Christine Menard, the Pantry's executive director. As utility bills rise with lower temperatures, “they'll need us even more.”

With the help of the Cape Cod Chronicle's Helping Neighbors fund drive, the Pantry will be able to meet those needs, Menard said.

Combined with this past summer's Helping Neighbors campaign, the holiday fund drive raised $180,000, which Menard said is “huge” and far exceeds previous Helping Neighbors fund drives.

“That is enormous,” she said of the financial assistance that will help the Harwich-based agency meet the needs of thousands of local residents. “It far exceeds what we've done before.”

While the $60,000 goal of the holiday fund drive fell short, the summer's $150,000 campaign more than made up the difference, she noted. “No matter how you do the math, it's good,” she said.

“Chronicle readers donated more than $30,000 to the Family Pantry during the most recent Helping Neighbors campaign,” said Chronicle Publisher Henry C. Hyora. “We're grateful for their generosity. Combined with our summer fund drive, the money will go a long way to helping the Pantry meet the increasing needs of local residents.”

While end of the year figures are still being processed, Menard said that through November, the number of new Pantry clients was up 6 percent, and the number of visits increased by 21 percent over the previous. That's partly due to a change in policy that allows clients to visit every two weeks instead of every three weeks. More than 75,000 bags of food have been distributed.

More and more the food includes fresh produce along with traditional Pantry “belly fillers,” Menard said. The goal is to have 30 percent of food given to clients be fresh vegetables, which at this time of year come from the Greater Boston Food Bank, wholesalers and Stop and Shop (the Pantry's own garden contributes in the warmer months). That's added to the agency's food bill.

“It's a commitment we made and are able to fulfill, but it's still expensive,” Menard said. Clients are happy to get the greens and veggies, especially at this time of year. “They can get a full brown bag of fruits and vegetables. That's a big change. Our clients very much appreciate that and recognize the difference.”

With seasonal layoffs and reduction in working hours hitting many local workers more so now that the holidays are over, “this is our busy season,” Menard said. “It will keep going until April, when people start to go back to work.” Funding from the Helping Neighbors campaign will help ensure the agency can see that busy season through.

The campaign may be over, but the Family Pantry welcomes tax-deductible donations year-round. Send a check to The Family Pantry, 133 Queen Anne Rd., Harwich, MA 02645, or visit www.thefamilypantry.com.