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In The Bank

Posted on Thursday, May 21st, 2015

Cam Nevin and Kayla Strom will ride 3,500 miles from Massachusetts to California to fight hunger.

Cam Nevin and Kayla Strom are heading from the classroom to the open road. On June 1st, the fresh University of Vermont (UVM) alumni will trade their caps and gowns for helmets and jerseys. They’ll be departing on a three month cycling trek to explore the country and raise awareness & funds for food insecurity.

Ever since they met two years ago in a yoga training course, Cam and Kayla have bonded over their shared appreciation for gardening, mindfulness, and healthy foods. As graduation drew closer, they knew they wanted to share an adventure on the road before settling into their future careers. However, they also wanted to avoid the negative environmental impact that comes with driving such a long trip. They agreed that seeing the country from the saddle of a bicycle was their best option.

The couple decided to organize their trip as a fundraiser to tap into their passion to end hunger and make a real difference in the lives of others. The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts was a natural choice to partner with for their ride. They estimate the cost of the trip will be approximately $5,000. Their goal is to raise double that, $10,000, to be able to donate $5,000 to The Food Bank. If they are able to reach their goal, Cam and Kayla will be providing 15,000 meals to our neighbors in need throughout Berkshire, Franklin, Hampden and Hampshire Counties.

Cam — who hails from Moretown, VT — studied Philosophy at UVM. No matter what career he pursues, he hopes to work to help others. Having led trips at Keewaydin Canoe Camp in Salisbury, VT for six years, he is no stranger to long, physically difficult journeys.

“Hunger is a simple yet devastating ill in this world,” says Cam. “We thought ‘why not start with food, a basic human need that should be accessible to all but unfortunately is not.’”

Growing up in Northampton, Kayla remembers cutting flowers and picking vegetables at The Food Bank Farm as a child. Although her family supports local and sustainable agriculture through CSA farm shares, Kayla’s passion for food systems really began when she took a course entitled World Food Population Development during her first year at college.

“We discussed all sorts of issues on a local and global scale,” says Kayla. “One that truly stuck was addressing the issue of hunger. Since my freshman year, I created a course load that encompasses this issue.”

Kayla went on to study Community and International Development with a focus on food systems, food justice and hunger. She has interned for the hunger relief project Campus Kitchens and conducted research for a more sustainable food system at UVM through the Real Food Challenge. She hopes to work for an organization that addresses food security in the future.

Departing from Northampton just two weeks after their graduation, they will travel west to Niagara Falls, around the southeastern edge of Lake Erie, south of Chicago, and then straight through the great plains of Iowa and Nebraska. They will then drop into Colorado before pedaling through Utah and Nevada on the way to their final destination of San Francisco. To complete the journey within their goal of less than three months, they will ride an average of 50 miles per day. By the end of their journey, they will have pedaled approximately 3,500 miles.

“We are very active, outdoors-oriented individuals, but we’ve never actually done long-distance touring before. This will be a grand part of the adventure,” says Cam. They have been cycling extensively to prepare for the ride. They know the trip will be challenging — both physically and mentally. But they have each other and know they’re riding for a noble cause.

You can contribute to Cam and Kayla’s fundraiser and follow along with updates from their trip. Visit their fundraising page at

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Category : Blog
Posted on Tuesday, May 12th, 2015

Wendy McCaul, Food Services Director at the Gateway Regional School District, works to make sure students have access to healthy food

By Andrew Morehouse, Executive Director

I had the pleasure of meeting a local hero the other day. I visited Wendy McCaul, Food Services Director at the Gateway Regional School District in Huntington. She’s been the director since 2001 and has worked there for the last 30 years. The School Nutrition Association of Massachusetts recently presented her with the “Food Service Director of the Year” award. This statewide achievement recognizes the extraordinary contributions of school nutrition directors who manage effective, fiscally sound school meal programs that provide healthy, appetizing meals to students.

“I took a job as a dishwasher in the Gateway Cafeteria 30 years ago while I was raising my kids and I’ve been here ever since,” explained Wendy. “My kids went to school here. I now have grandchildren who go to school here. I live a few minutes away. I love my job and my community.”

Unlike many other schools across the country, Gateway bucks the trend by running its cafeteria in-house, rather than outsourcing it to a for-profit food service vendor. Gateway Regional houses both the middle and high schools for seven rural hill towns, ranging in population from 521 to 2,180 residents (2010 U.S. Census).*

A very growing problem that looms in these hill towns is the presence of food insecurity. With a population of 8,893 people, approximately 751 individuals receive SNAP benefits (formerly food stamps). While not as concentrated and large as is urban centers, it’s still very real and serious for one out of about every 13 people in this seven-town school district.

Wendy explained that she’s seen food insecurity increase dramatically in the last 14 years at Gateway. In 2001, 24% of children were eligible for free and reduced meals based on household income. Last year, that percentage reached 34%. She sees hungry kids all the time.

Wendy and her team serve food to 600 children every day — 600 lunches and 90 breakfasts. Much like other schools, fewer children eat breakfast than lunch. There are many reasons for this, including the fact that buses often don’t arrive until after breakfast is over.

Wendy has a plan: “I’m trying to make breakfast more accessible for kids, especially the ones who don’t have enough food at home. This year, I’m hoping to start a grab and go breakfast in the hallways.”

She shared with me a story about a family that moved to the school district. Wendy’s daughter-in-law, an elementary school teacher, noticed the family’s two children in her classroom the very first day. Their clothes looked tattered so she asked them if they had lunch. The only food they had was Cheetos. She sent them to the cafeteria. Wendy and her staff learned that these kids were income-eligible for the free and reduced school meals program and made sure they were enrolled in it. They are very proactive about doing this because they understand that children need to be nourished in order to be attentive and learn in school.

Fortunately, Wendy is noticing changes in children’s and parents’ habits toward healthier eating. Many years ago — long before last year’s new federal school nutrition guidelines went into effect — she began shifting the school menu to include more nutritious ingredients, such as whole wheat. The new federal guidelines will also require reducing the high level of sodium in school meals beginning next year. Wendy is up for the task because she wants kids to eat healthy food. She knows how much some households rely on school meals for their kids.

*Blandford, Chester, Huntington, Middlefield, Montgomery, Russell, Worthington

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Category : Blog
Posted on Tuesday, May 5th, 2015

John (fifth from left, back row) and Betsy (seventh from left, front row) with their cycling group in Vietnam

Since the first Will Bike 4 Food event in 2011, close to 500 cyclists have pedaled towards ending hunger in Western Massachusetts. However, one rider – John Follet of Chesterfield – claims a very unique distinction. He is the only person to ride in all four WB4F events. His participation alone has made a real difference in the lives of our food insecure neighbors, providing close to 8,000 meals. Riding has made a difference in John’s own life, as well. Will Bike 4 Food offered the opportunity to not only rekindle an old friendship but also led to a cycling tour to remember on the other side of the globe.

John was drawn to WB4F because it was a fun way to support a cause he felt passionately about. As a 70-year-old lifelong cyclist he no longer yearns for a competitive atmosphere. He has ridden long tours, raced in competitions and even commuted by bike before he retired.

“I’m retired now. But I was a pediatric physician and I had patients who skipped meals,” explains John. “I know how important access to nutritious food is. I think food is an essential right.”

John knew that his involvement would help impact the lives of others in the community, what didn’t know was that it would bring him back together with an old friend. While fundraising for his second WB4F in 2012, he recognized one of the names on the list of riders:  Betsy Evans. The two had become friends while their children were in school together in Western Massachusetts in the ‘70s. They lost touch when John and his family moved to Wisconsin, only to return to Massachusetts many years later. John reached out to Betsy and they made plans to ride the 50 mile route together at WB4F.

“It was really a special thing to have a long ride where you have hours together,” says Betsy. “You’re really hearing about each other’s lives and reflecting on them.” The two discussed what their children and grandchildren were up to and laughed about memories they shared years ago while riding past beautiful farmland and rolling hills.

“I love that route,” says Betsy. “I’ve lived in the area for almost 40 years and I go back to that route.”

As the two rode they were able to make new connections as well. John cites meeting other riders as one of his favorite parts of cycling. So when he spotted a young rider with a flat tire he took the opportunity to help. As John changed the tire he chatted with the rider and her friend. By the time they hit the road again, you would have thought he and the riders were best friends, says Betsy.

One of the many conversations John and Betsy began on that ride that they kept coming back to was how great cycling was as a vehicle to see the world. Betsy mentioned she had been thinking about planning a cycling trip abroad, and John shared that he had wanted to see Vietnam for years. Excited by the time they had spent together at Will Bike 4 Food, they gathered a group of family and friends and planned a cycling tour through Vietnam which Betsy describes as a life-changing experience.

Choosing to travel with a bicycle tour company, they rode with a tour guide allowing them to focus on the sights and local culture. The group rode around 150 miles in short sections, starting in the north in Hanoi and heading south towards the Mekong Delta. Every day there was new scenery to take in from vast rice fields to bustling open air markets to communal gardens farmed by locals to provide food to their villages. Just like at home, John enjoyed being able to stop and chat and found all of the locals to be friendly and welcoming.

“That ride at Will Bike 4 Food planted a seed of camaraderie that kept growing and growing,” says Betsy. “I don’t think our trip to Vietnam would have ever happened without that ride.”

John is now gearing up for his 5th Will Bike for Food and Betsy will be riding alongside him. Together they will enjoy the positive atmosphere and scenic views, and perhaps most importantly make new friends in the cycling community while giving back to the larger Western Mass. community.

“The connections keep multiplying,” says Betsy. “It’s like throwing a stone into a pond.”

Learn more about Will Bike 4 Food, and how you can get involved.

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Category : Blog
Posted on Tuesday, April 21st, 2015

The Unitarian Universalist Society of Amherst

By: Andrew Morehouse, Executive Director

As the Executive Director of The Food Bank, one of the things I enjoy most about my job is that no two days are exactly alike. If I’m not thanking donors, greeting volunteers, or planning a meeting with staff, then I’m visiting a community partner. Most recently, I’ve had the privilege to speak at a number of faith-based organizations that support The Food Bank’s mission.

In the past month alone, I was invited to two church services to speak with the congregation about the issue of hunger and food insecurity in our region, as well as The Food Bank’s response to it. The first was the Unitarian Universalist Society in Amherst, which hosts a weekly community breakfast in collaboration with Craig’s Door (a local shelter) in addition to supporting many other local organizations that feed and shelter the most vulnerable population in Amherst. The other was St. Paul Lutheran Church in East Longmeadow. They have a small food pantry on-site and are currently engaged in a community needs assessment to determine what else the congregation should do to live its faith.

In speaking with the congregations, I shared stories about my experiences, and about the individuals I have met whose lives have been impacted through our work. It is clear to me that The Food Bank shares many of the same values as the congregations I visit. The basic principles of compassion, love for others, and the desire to help those in need have served as the foundation of our work in the community. Acting upon these values will be instrumental in facilitating change and creating a Western Massachusetts where no one goes hungry.

Together, we can take action and help our neighbors in need. I urged everyone to contact their legislators to ask that they support an increase in the Massachusetts Emergency Food Assistance Program (MEFAP) funding, and to write a letter to Governor Baker to request that he stop the new faulty SNAP application process.

On the day that I visited The Unitarian Universalist Society in Amherst, their parishioners collected $1,200 and donated it to The Food Bank. In addition, St. Paul Lutheran Church recently sent us a gift of $2,500 with a personal note stating: “to support the mission and ministry of The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts.”

We are so grateful to them for their faith in us to carry out our mission. Through their efforts, and those like them, we can continue to feed our neighbors in need and lead the community to end hunger.

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Category : Blog
Posted on Tuesday, April 7th, 2015

Diana Spurgin (right) and Anne Palmer answer phones during Monte’s March IV.

Diana Spurgin spends most Tuesday mornings laughing and smiling with her friends. They aren’t sitting idle while they chat, however. They are helping make sure that the more than 235,000 people in Western Massachusetts who rely on the emergency food network have enough to eat. She and her friends work the morning warehouse volunteer shift at The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, and they are integral to our operation. This April, we recognize our passionate volunteers and the important work that they do as part of our celebration of National Volunteer Month.

“It’s the type of place volunteers stay,” says Diana noting the many long-time regulars. “It’s such a great bonding experience. You’re standing next to someone from Hatfield and someone from Shelburne Falls, and you all know you’re doing something great together.”

Diana has been volunteering at The Food Bank for the past 4 years. In addition, she also spends time volunteering at the Amherst Survival Center, our member agency in the town in which she lives. She first visited The Food Bank after learning that much of the food served at the Survival Center was provided by The Food Bank, and seeing the impact that access to food can make.

“When I learned the surprisingly high number of children who can only rely on school lunches that was a real eye-opener for me,” says Diana. “A lot of people are opening empty refrigerators. No one should be hungry.”

Diana and her fellow volunteers sort food donations, taking care to make sure they are organized and packaged correctly for distribution. This is integral to making sure that all food distributed is fresh and ready to be delivered to those who need it most. She never finds her time to be boring, due to the friendly company.

“It’s a great group of people. I don’t feel like I’m working,” says Diana. “If anything, it’s good exercise. I always tell people that volunteering at The Food Bank is my exercise. We are lifting banana boxes full of canned goods!”

In addition to her usual Tuesday shift, Diana has also volunteered at a number of Food Bank events, including Will Bike 4 Food and our monthly Family Volunteer Day. She has even answered telephones during Monte’s March for the past three years.

“I love hearing the voices of people calling in who have like-minded goals and support the great work that Monte does,” says Diana who offered a matching donation for Amherst residents while volunteering this past year when her phone didn’t ring for a little longer than she would like.

Diana is involved in the community outside of The Food Bank as well. In additional to volunteering at Amherst Survival Center, she is the Vice President of the board for the Amherst Education Foundation, an independent, non-profit organization which supports Amherst area public schools in providing a challenging and enriching educational experience, and serves on the vestry at Grace Episcopal Church.

Recently, one of her passion projects snowballed into a much bigger fundraiser. When Diana became aware of how many families could not afford diapers during Diaper Need Awareness Week, she decided to do something about it by taking-up a collection at her church. Within one week, approximately 1,870 diapers were collected. When Amherst Survival Center’s Executive Director Mindy Domb learned of this early success, the two began to strategize expanding the effort.

They organized diaper drop-off sites throughout Amherst with help from Center for Human Development’s Family Outreach of Amherst, United Way of Pioneer Valley, the Amherst College Center for Community Engagement, State Representative Ellen Story, the district office representative for WIC, and other concerned individuals in the community.

“Everybody I’ve talked to has been as astounded as I was by the extent of diaper need in our community,” said Diana. The goal for the Amherst-area Diaper Drive was set at 18,000 diapers and 54,000 wipes. By the end of the drive 27,545 diapers and 54,000 wipes had been collected, far surpassing the goal for diapers and meeting the ambitious quota for wipes.

Involved citizens such as Diana and her fellow volunteers help keep our community strong. They truly make a difference in the lives of our neighbors who are struggling to both pay their bills and put food on the table, and they do so with a smile.

“Without volunteers The Food Bank couldn’t do what it’s doing. Everyone should volunteer at The Food Bank,” says Diana before hesitating for a moment. “Just don’t come in on Tuesday and take my spot!” she says with a laugh.

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Category : Blog
Posted on Monday, March 23rd, 2015

Assistant Nutrition Coordinator Laura Fries leads a microwave cooking demo for homeless families residing in the Holyoke Hotel

Hunger is not just about lack of food. It’s also about lack of nutritious food. Here at The Food Bank, our dedicated Nutrition department addresses the connection between food and health by leading programs in the community, and educating our neighbors in need so they can make healthier choices. Drawing upon their years of experience, they share their knowledge and improve clients’ health by raising awareness of the foods they eat.

Our nutrition outreach programs address many of the larger nutritional challenges facing our community. In addition, we also work closely with many clients who are unaware of how easy it can be to eat healthy on a limited budget. While many people feel that they can’t afford to eat healthy food, the cost (in both money and preparation time) of home cooked meals versus fast food is overestimated.

“People are under a lot of stress, but they want to feed their families more nutritious meals,” said Diane Alpern, The Food Bank’s Nutrition Coordinator. “Getting people motivated to feel good about cooking with healthy ingredients is important. We are providing full-length educational workshops that teach how to make a healthy plate without spending more.” With more than 20 years experience in the field, including hospital and outpatient environments, Diane is a registered dietitian and an active member of the Western Area Massachusetts Dietetic Association.

While fast food may be tempting for families on a tight budget, it can be much easier to resist the drive-thru knowing that there are healthier options well within reach. Just think about what $2.49 might buy at a fast food place, compared with how many healthy meals could be prepared with one dozen eggs for $2.49. Eating healthy meals doesn’t require long hours in the kitchen and expensive ingredients. Our workshops and supermarket tours empower people with limited incomes to make healthy choices for their families. Recipes incorporating food being distributed as ingredients are often passed out at Mobile Food Bank and Brown Bag sites. We even provide recipes that only require a microwave, for those who find themselves without access to a kitchen.

“One of the recipes was made with spaghetti squash and some of the people attending the class had never tasted any kind of squash,” said Darleen St. Jacques, Program Manager of Loaves and Fishes Kitchen at Open Pantry in Springfield, following a cooking demonstration. “They now are buying and cooking different types of squash available at the grocery stores! They were so excited to learn about this vegetable.”

“Nutrition has such an impact on every aspect on your life,” states Laura Fries, The Food Bank’s Assistant Nutrition Coordinator. She notes that small changes bring both immediate results, such as more energy and a better ability to focus, as well as reducing the likelihood of serious health issues in the future. Laura will receive a Master of Public Health degree from the University of Massachusetts Amherst this May. She brings a fresh perspective to organizing education programs at a community level and is enthusiastic about teaching healthy eating habits.

We believe that everyone has a right to nutritious food regardless of their circumstances. Lack of nutritious food has a domino effect on all aspects of a person’s life. Without access to critical items such as lean meats, fruits, vegetables and whole grains, areas with high rates of food insecurity experience increased rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, , and other health problems. The healthier you are,  the more time you can spend improving your situation instead of missing work or school due to health concerns. During National Nutrition Month in March, we shine a light on the importance eating well plays in our community. But Nutrition is important to the fight against hunger every day of the year.

Be sure to visit our Nutrition Tips for more information about preparing healthy meals, and a number of easy and delicious recipes.

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Category : Blog
Posted on Friday, March 13th, 2015

Image courtesy of xedos4 at

When you think of canned goods what comes to mind? Soup? Beans? Tuna? For many, produce might not be the most obvious answer. But canned fruits and vegetables have many benefits and can be a great way to meet your dietary recommendations on a budget, while avoiding food waste.

31% of people in Massachusetts report eating fruit less than one time a day, and 20% report eating vegetables less than one time a day. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that most individuals should be eating at least 2 cups of fruit and 2½ cups or more of vegetables daily, to maintain good health. Fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamins and minerals that help make you healthy and keep you strong, as well as fiber which helps keep you fuller longer.

You have three main options when purchasing your produce at the supermarket: fresh, frozen, or canned. While fresh produce is highly regarded for its outstanding nutrition value, canned items have a number of advantages to people shopping on a tight budget. Not only do they reduce preparation and cooking time, but they are also easy to store and have a long shelf life. With canned items, you can create delicious meals in minutes. To help you prepare healthy meals when you have limited time, keep your pantry stocked with canned items such as beans, lentils, vegetables, tomato products, and broth.

Canned goods are an easy and affordable way to increase the variety of fruits and vegetables you eat all year. 15-20% of all fresh produce is thrown away each year, so canned goods are a great way to reduce waste. Canned produce counts towards your daily intake of fruits and vegetables. Reports show that frequent canned food users have higher intakes of both fruits and vegetables. In addition, as they are usually canned hours after harvest in air tight containers, they may have even more nutrients than out of season fresh produce.

When purchasing canned fruits and vegetables, there are a few nutrition concerns to keep in mind. Salt, or sodium, is something to try and minimize in your diet. The general adult population should consume 2,300 mg or less. While it is true that many processed foods are higher in salt, many canned vegetables offer low sodium or no salt added options which can be great alternatives. For instance, a typical ½ cup serving of regular green beans contains 380 mg of sodium, while a ½ cup serving of “No Salt Added” green beans may contain 10-40 mg.

Another way to reduce the amount of salt in canned produce is to drain and rinse it through a colander before use, which can reduce salt by nearly half. Sodium levels are often highest in products like soups, broths, and prepared foods like beef stew. Make sure you look at the serving size and compare it to what you normally eat; for instance, many soup cans are actually 2 servings.

In addition to salt, sugar is something else that should be reduced in our normal diet. When it comes to canned foods, this can be a concern. However, it can be easily resolved by choosing products canned in juice, light syrup, or water. Canned fruit in heavy or light syrup will always contain more sugar than canned fruit in water or juice. People with high blood sugar concerns may choose to rinse fruit that has been packaged in syrup, to reduce its sugar content.

Canned foods are a great choice to include in a balanced diet. As long as you pay attention to the nutrition facts labels to help you make the healthiest choice when shopping, delicious meals are just a can opener away.


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Category : Blog
Posted on Wednesday, March 4th, 2015

Ellen Vollinger of FRAC (left) and Patricia Baker of MLRI (right) led a meeting of the Massachusetts SNAP Coalition held at The Food Bank on February 13th to address the recent challenges faced with the DTA’s SNAP application system

Since this past October, the state of Massachusetts has seen an exceptionally sharp decline in the number of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP; formerly food stamps) recipients. This sudden drop is not due to recovery in the economy, but rather to a “business process redesign” implemented by the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA).

Although this new system was designed to match caseworkers with clients more quickly and provide benefits more efficiently, lack of proper testing and training for staff has resulted in a number of challenges causing problems for thousands of people across the state.

  • A new centralized phone system was instituted, requiring all calls be made to one phone number. DTA is only able to field approximately 5,500 of the nearly 24,000 calls that they receive each day. People simply aren’t able to get through.
  • Applicants are now being required to provide much more information and documentation than ever before. All of these documents are required to be sent to a single electronic data matching center in Taunton, Massachusetts.
  • Client documents are received, but there are not enough caseworkers to process them and take the appropriate actions.
  • Automated terminations are erroneously rejecting applicants from benefits that they are actually eligible for due to documents not being processed by the application deadline. At this point, applicants are being required to reapply and go through the process all over again.

These problems are having a tremendous impact on the community here in Western Massachusetts. Our SNAP department, which assists clients throughout the application process, has been able to see first-hand the results of this faulty new system.

One particular client, attempting to report a change of address and household size, was denied benefits due to a series of paperwork and clerical errors. His recertification form was incorrectly mailed to his old address (after he reported his change of address), and he was forced to wait over a month to correct the problem and eventually receive SNAP benefits for his family.

Many of our senior clients tell us that when they call the DTA main number, the phone prompts are hard to understand and it doesn’t allow enough time for them to enter their information.

In many instances, clients are being told by DTA staff that their application has not been received. In actuality, the application is at the office but has yet to be processed. In some cases the application is submitted electronically, but lack of staff trained to retrieve these documents is preventing them from being processed.

One client, who was supposed to receive expedited benefits, was never scheduled for a standard interview by DTA. She called their main number, only to be told her application could not be found and she would have to reapply. Confused and upset, she contacted The Food Bank. We contacted DTA on her behalf, but they were still unable to locate the application. It took six telephone calls to DTA and 15 days for them to process the client’s emergency food stamp benefits.

This decline in SNAP benefits has led to an increase of people seeking the services of local food pantries and meal sites. Our member agencies have reported a drastic increase in visits over the past few months, and are struggling to provide enough food for everyone in need.

As each day passes on these unprocessed applications, someone relying on assistance is not getting the help they need to put food on the table. That could mean a child going to school hungry, a senior citizen on a fixed income being forced to choose between paying for medications or food, or a working family struggling to make ends meet going without another dinner.

The Food Bank is helping to lead efforts in calling for changes to DTA’s current system. Together, with other hunger relief organizations, we are advocating for the immediate halt of all SNAP denials and terminations until the backlog is cleared. In addition, new procedures need to be implemented, allowing DTA staff to review all of the documents in a case before any termination or denial can take place. We are also recommending that DTA suspend further automated document processing, until it can be confirmed that it is accurate, relevant and affects current eligibility.

Learn how you can take action to support The Food Bank’s mission, and help advocate for change.

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Category : Blog
Posted on Tuesday, February 10th, 2015

Linda Milewski has been volunteering at The Food Bank for fifteen years

During most days of the week, Linda Milewski can be found in The Food Bank warehouse, sorting food and training new volunteers. As she lives just down the road, she walks or rides her bike over when the weather permits. She has been volunteering at The Food Bank for fifteen years and regularly goes beyond the call of duty to give back.

Raised in Whately, Linda has lived in Hatfield for 42 years. She and her husband made the move after getting married, and have lived in the same house ever since. Following a 20 year career with the Hatfield Public Schools, Linda now spends her time tending to the 31 fruit trees she has planted in her yard. She enjoys canning fruit, jam and jelly — some of which she sells at local craft fairs. And of course, she spends much of her time at The Food Bank.

“My friend Helen was a volunteer. She said ‘Are you bored? Come with me!’” explains Linda. That was in 2000 — and she has been at The Food Bank ever since.

In that time, she has gotten to know a lot of the staff, including Food Processing Coordinator Kate Albrecht. Linda has learned so much in her time here that she received a special “Kate’s Stunt Double” award at our Volunteer Appreciation Picnic in the fall, recognizing her ability to fill in for Kate when she is out.

This title became especially literal when Kate recently broke her arm and was out for an extended period of time. Upon learning of Kate’s injury, Linda offered to fill in and has been voluntarily working full-time hours, making sure that the essential process of food sorting continues to run smoothly.

“We’re super lucky to have her,” says Justin Costa, Warehouse Coordinator. “Linda has been here so long she knows the routine and the other volunteers. Knowing she’s back there, I know it’s under control.”

Linda finds it especially rewarding to see how quickly the food arrives and is then distributed to those who need it. Often times, she says, fresh produce arrives and is picked up by local food pantries so quickly that unless you were in the warehouse, you’d never know it was even here.

“She has a great sense of humor and pretty much fills any room with good energy,” says Erin Sullivan, Volunteer Coordinator at The Food Bank. “She’s also very smart and has an incredible understanding of the best ways to set up and execute sorting projects. If we have a one-time group and Linda is running the show, I know they’re going to have a clear idea of what they’re supposed to do.”

Linda is truly a member of The Food Bank family and her hard work and dedication is appreciated by the entire staff.

“She’s really great,” says Justin. “We try to tell her at least three times a day.”

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Category : Blog
Posted on Thursday, February 5th, 2015

by Andrew Morehouse, Executive Director at The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts

I was really inspired recently and here’s why:  I was privileged to bear witness to the founding convention of Berkshire Interfaith Organizing, or BIO, a new county-wide organization self-described as a “faith- and values-based multi-issue organization that will build community, develop leadership skills and tackle problems such as hunger/food insecurity that affect poor and working poor families in the Berkshires.”

It was very moving to watch 200 religious and lay leaders come together, based on their shared moral principles, in defense of the most vulnerable residents in towns and cities across the Berkshires.  Founded by fourteen Catholic, Protestant and Jewish congregations, members of its Food Security Team visited The Food Bank several months ago to learn more about us and food insecurity in our region. We agreed that advocating for more state funding for nutritious food, through the Massachusetts Emergency Food Assistance Program (MEFAP), is just one of many ways we can and will work together to advance our mission “to feed our neighbors in need and, [together], lead the community to end hunger.”

We congratulate BIO for taking this bold and much-need stand, and look forward to collaborating with them in the future.

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Category : Blog