Food, Health, Lifestyle, News

Hunger Series: All of us can help the hungry

Mike Anderson, a voluteer with Youth Works from Greenfield, Ohio, gets blueberry scones ready for lunch at My Brother's Table. (Spenser R. Hasak)

This is the last in a six-part series.

Hunger is a neighborhood, community, regional, national, and global problem. But the ways the average person can help the hungry are as long as the accompanying list.

The places in need of a helping hand or donation are in local neighborhoods, they may be around the corner from your house, or just down the street.

Big organizations such as Lynn Economic Opportunity and the Salvation Army combine hunger relief efforts with job help and other assistance programs.

Senior lunch programs are available in Lynn and surrounding community and organizations committed to ending hunger, including Essex County Hunger Relief and The Food Project are doing their part to feed people.

Religious organizations ranging from Sacred Heart in Lynn to St. John the Evangelist in Swampscott to Jewish Family and Children’s Service offer food assistance. The Saugus United Parish Food Pantry is always looking for volunteers to help achieve a greater impact on the community.

“I don’t feel we are reaching everyone we need to be reaching,” said pantry director Wendy Reed. “To do that we would need to be developing services beyond the scope of the pantry. We need home delivery.”

In May, the pantry served 166 people from 87 households and the number of families with children seeking assistance was up to 80 from 27 households the month before.

The number of families with children seeking assistance increases during the summer months when students are out of school, said Reed. Alternatively, the number of seniors who need help shoots up during the winter months, when those residents who are on fixed incomes need to choose between paying for heat and paying for food.

“Over the years, I’m starting to notice these trends,” she said.

Children are going hungry in Peabody and the non-profit organization, No Child Goes Hungry, is here to help. The organization helps children in need from all eight elementary schools in the city, and unfortunately that is only reaching the tip of the iceberg.

“We found that kids that are receiving reduced lunch weren’t getting the proper nutrition on the weekend, school breaks or holidays,” said Jarrod Hochman, one of the organizers.

No Child Goes Hungry donates 250 backpacks with donated food to the eight elementary schools in the City of Peabody to make sure children are getting proper nourishment. On Thursdays the volunteers work together to put the backpacks and food together to be delivered. The volunteers deliver the backpacks on Fridays with the help of Evan’s Flowers, using their vans to bring the backpacks to the kids.

United Parish in Saugus handed out 550 grocery bags in March. In April, that number grew to 695 bags, and in May, about 560.

Thirty volunteers work the pantry every Friday morning and about 15 to 20 people help out when they can. During the holidays, school groups often volunteer to help distribute food and carry bags to cars.

Getting people to volunteer to make home deliveries is a struggle.

“It’s a commitment that some people feel uncomfortable,” said Reed.

But it’s a service that is needed.

Many seniors on fixed incomes are home-bound and unable to visit the church for pantry services. Reed hopes to expand services to offer food drop-off, but more volunteers are needed to make that happen, she said.

No Child’s Hochman discusses food insecurity at school committee meetings, but No Child Goes Hungry mainly relies on Facebook to get their message across. He adds that the organization is always looking for volunteers.

“It’s been an awesome experience. I know a fair amount of people in Peabody and I can tell you that 60 percent of the people who volunteer with us I had never met in my life before this program,” said Hochman. “It’s really people who have reached out to us through PTO meetings, Facebook, Evan’s Flowers and through friends of friends.”

To help No Child Goes Hungry, visit https://www.facebook.com/nochildgoeshungryinpeabody/

Anyone who wants to help out United Parish in Saugus can show up at the church anytime from 8 to 11 a.m. to introduce themselves and help distribute food. Food donations can be made before the pantry opens on Friday morning. Financial contributions can also be made to the pantry through Reed.

Staples are always needed, such as macaroni and cheese, peanut butter and jelly, dry pasta, canned tuna and chicken, and shelf stable milk.

Food must be dated and not be past the expiration date.

Reed is also looking for people with gardens who have a surplus of tomatoes, zucchini, and other vegetables. A few years ago, a community garden donated fresh produce every week and it went a long way, said Reed.

About 57 percent of the food given out is gathered through donations and the rest is from the Greater Boston Food Bank.

Reed stressed that the pantry does not feed families, it only supplements what they are not able to purchase through other means.

“We do not feed people as some places do,” she said. “This is to supplement what they get. Some have assistance, but when you see an elderly person come in and they show you their benefits — sometimes it’s like $16. Who eats $16 worth of food a month? It makes me crazy.”

The Haven Project, also a part of Land of a Thousand Hills Coffee Company in Lynn, runs a drop-in center for homeless and unaccompanied young adults, which is open from 4 to 7 p.m., five nights a week. The center has a small food pantry that gives goods to the food insecure homeless children and young adults. The fresh food is donated by local supermarkets, including Shaw’s on State Street, and volunteers who bring in fresh, cooked dinners on a rotating schedule.

The organization feeds about eight to nine young adults and children a night.

“I think people know it’s a problem and I think that there are many good agencies that are doing something about it,” said Gini Mazman, the executive director. “In my opinion there isn’t an abundance but there are resources out there for people, it is more difficult to get them but it is supposed to be just a supplement. One of the things I find is there could be more education on how to spend those supplement funds wisely.”

Item reporters Bill Brotherton, Bella diGrazia, Lindsey Ryan and Bridget Turcotte contributed to this report.

More Stories In News