About 13% of Western Mass. residents are food insecure, a rate higher than any other food bank service area in the state.
One of the most startling facts about hunger in Western Massachusetts is that one out of every five individuals served by emergency food network of the The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts are children. Our organization puts great effort into reaching out to students and youth in the counties we operate in to help them learn about hunger issues and engage them to become a part of our work to bring an end to food insecurity in Western Mass.
The Food Bank has been proud to host a number of youth groups this summer who are dedicated to doing just that. In the month of July alone, the Food Bank hosted over 100 students of all ages, from as close as Springfield to as far away as Denmark, Peru and Pakistan. These groups toured The Food Bank, participated in educational activities, volunteered at our warehouse and organized food and fund drives. That time has added up to nearly 300 hours of volunteer time given to the Food Bank by youth in one month alone!
Youth from Saint Elizabeth’s Parish in Ludlow Massachusetts visited The Food Bank as part of their participation in Just 5 Days, a program that asks middle school students to donate five days of volunteering to make a difference in their community. And the students from Saint Elizabeth’s certainly did! In two days of volunteering they donated nearly 100 volunteer hours to The Food Bank, and sorted more than 4,000 lbs of fresh corn for distribution to our emergency food network in Western Massachusetts.
High School students from all across the world congregated at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst this summer to be part of their “Summer Fuel” program to help students build life experiences and prepare for college admissions. As part of their program, Summer Fuel participants visited The Food Bank to learn about hunger issues facing Americans across the country, and how the national network of more than 200 Food Banks work to provide emergency food relief to millions of Americans.
Students participated in educational seminars at The Food Bank, toured our warehouse, visited a local Community Supported Agriculture farm that donates thousands of pounds of fresh produce to us each year, and of course spent time volunteering. Overall, Summer Fuel students spent five days working with The Food Bank of Western Mass. and donated over 80 hours of volunteer work.
This year The Food Bank was again honored to host the Pakistani Youth Leaders group visiting America through the University of Massachusetts Civic Initiative. Over 30 college-age students from Pakistan visited The Food Bank to learn about how Americans are working to end hunger. The students spent a day volunteering, touring The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts and even had the opportunity to taste test local fresh fruits and berries. The students also participated in a fascinating discussion with our Executive Director Andrew Morehouse about the politics and policies around food insecurity in America. After their visit the students were so motivated they decided to host a Food Drive to benefit The Food Bank of Western Mass. and collected more than 350 lbs of non-perishable food! Everyone who had the chance to work with them were inspired by these students dedication and passion to fight hunger all over the world. We were also impressed by their creativity in the collection boxes they delivered their donations in!
Our staff here at The Food Bank are incredibly grateful to these groups, and many more that have visited us this summer. With the amount of food our organization moves through our warehouse each year (on track for well over 7 million pounds this year) we simply could not operate without the tireless work of volunteers. Seeing the passion and dedication of youth who will be shaping the Food Policies of not just America, but the world in the decades to come is truly inspiring, and gives us hope that our goal to end hunger is an attainable one.