Among all client households served by The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, 71% are food insecure, according to the U.S. government’s official food security scale.
The Food Bank was incorporated as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization in 1982. In 1983, we started our first Brown Bag: Food for Elders distribution in Hampshire County, and provided about 630,000 pounds of food to the community through our small warehouse. Our first truck was purchased in 1984, and in 1985 we began a capital campaign to raise money to build a new, larger warehouse. In 1986, we moved to the new warehouse in Hatfield (which remains our current location). By then were distributing 2 million pounds of food.
In 1991, The Food Bank Farm in Hadley became the first community-supported agriculture (CSA) farm in the region with the primary mission to help feed those in need of food assistance. The farm provided produce to The Food Bank’s network of member agencies and to a group of community shareholders. The next few years were full of growth in many areas: we had nearly 400 independent member agencies by the late 1990s; hired new staff in program areas of nutrition, education, and food distribution; and provided around 4.5 million pounds of food per year across the region.
With the new millennium, The Food Bank embarked on new areas of development. We started the Fresh Food Project (now our Door-to-Door Delivery program) to bring fresh produce and perishable goods to member agencies. In 2002, we celebrated our 20th anniversary and launched a new capital campaign, Room to Grow, to expand our warehouse and offices. The campaign ultimately raised $3.9 million, enabling us to double the size of our warehouse, coolers, freezers, and office space. In 2007, we received a Gold Certification in LEED® (Leadership for Energy and Environmental Design) Rating System™ from the U.S. Green Building Council for our renovated facility. In 2009, we distributed nearly 7 million pounds of food to 400+ member agencies in our region – a record for food distribution in our history. We also launched new community advocacy programs, including the Springfield Food Access Project and outreach for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP (formerly known as Food Stamps).
Also in 2009, The Food Bank adopted a new strategic plan outlining our organizational goals for the next three years.
The Food Bank concluded the Springfield Food Access Project as well as Target:Hunger Springfield in 2010, and Target:Hunger North Berkshires the following year. These projects were initiated as pilot programs, aimed at building capacity, handing the reigns to community members and serving as models for similar projects in other areas of the region.
In 2011, The Food Bank launched a Network Capacity Building program to support member agencies across our entire service area, using these successful projects as models.