Important Information about COVID-19 and The Food Bank

Updated: 7/1/2020

COVID-19 and food insecurity in western Massachusetts:

Food insecurity in the region has risen dramatically since the COVID-19 pandemic began earlier this year. According to Feeding America, a nationwide network of 200 food banks that includes our organization, by the end of this year, there may be a 47% increase in the number of western Mass. residents and a 63% increase in the number of western Mass. children who will be food insecure by the end of 2020. This infographic provides more information.

Additional updates:

  • The Food Bank joined nearly 2,500 organizations across the U.S. to sign a letter urging the Senate to boost SNAP benefits by 15% in the next coronavirus relief package. “COVID-19 has exacerbated already too high levels of food insecurity in America.,” the letter states.
  • In June 2020, The Food Bank received more than 125,000 pounds in food donations, the equivalent of 105,000 emergency meals for households facing hunger in the region. Sources for these donations ranged from Big Y World Class Market to Wellspring Harvest.
  • Earlier this month, members of the Church of Jesus Christ and Latter – Day Saints generously donated more than 200,000 pounds of food that was packed into emergency meal kits and transported from church headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah to our warehouse in Hatfield. Learn more.
  • At a press event held in the parking lot at The Food Bank (that adhered to COVID-19 safety protocols), the Antonacci Family Foundation announced that their Miles for Meals fundraising campaign had so far raised $250,000 on behalf of The Food Bank. Their generosity will provide one million meals in western Mass.

Other recent news stories featured The Food Bank’s COVID-19 emergency response:

“Farm to food bank: Moving farmers from ‘dump’ to ‘donate’” (Christian Science Monitor)

“Making Food Distributions More Equitable” (Food Bank News)

“Need for Mobile Food Banks Grows During Pandemic” (Connecting Point, WGBY)

Earlier this month, The Food Bank issued a statement regarding systemic racism, one of the root cause of hunger in the U.S.:

We know there are many causes of hunger and food insecurity. Systemic racism, in the past and today, is clearly one cause. We will never end hunger until we end systemic racism.

Updated: 5/15/2020

  • From March thru April, The Food Bank distributed 19% more emergency food than we distributed at this time in 2019.
  • Due to COVID – 19, demand for food assistance in the region continues to increase just as temporary food shortages have caused grocery store donations to drop.
  • The coronavirus poses an even greater threat to vulnerable households at risk of hunger.  The current rate of infections is exposing health inequities often associated with food insecurity that disproportionately threaten the well-being of people of color.
  • We are serving about 20% more people of which 27% are new visitors for food assistance.
  • SNAP applications are up significantly until recently (>130%); they plateaued for about a week and are increasing again.
  • Member agency meal sites and food pantries are receiving new patrons from the ranks of the recently unemployed who have never sought food assistance before.
  • We are pleased to announce that more of our Mobile Food Bank sites and Brown Bag: Food for Elders Sites have reopened, or are scheduled to reopen, in western Massachusetts. Everyone is welcome to attend Mobile Food Bank events, however, the Brown Bag program is open to qualified seniors (age 55 and older) and adults with disabilities who receive SSI or SSDI benefits.
  • Christina Maxwell, Director of Programs, participated in Food Security Virtual Panel and Q&A Session with Senator Comerford on Facebook and Zoom on Tuesday, May 12. The conversation included a discussion on local and state food security as well as race and class inequities and COVID-19.
  • Andrew Morehouse, Executive Director, and Jillian Morgan, Corporate Relations Officer, recently discussed The Food Bank’s mission and response to COVID-19 during our own Facebook live event.
  • Andrew Morehouse also wrote an article that has been published in El Sol Latino’s May 2020 issue. This issue focuses on “The Economic and Health Fallout of the Coronavirus for People of Color.”
  • Christina Maxwell and Laura Sylvester, Legislative and Community Partnership Coordinator, wrote an opinion piece on the importance of SNAP during the COVID-19 pandemic. Maxwell and Sylvester lead The Food Bank’s advocacy efforts locally and statewide.
  • Partnering farmers, Atlas Farm, Lakeside Organics, and Mountain View Farm, have planted crops on The Food Bank’s farms in Hadley. Both farms will supply organic vegetables to food insecure households in the region through our Mobile Food Bank, Brown Bag: Food for Elders program and partnering meal sites and food pantries in the region. Learn more about our farms.

Support The Food Bank’s emergency response efforts by volunteering or donating to the cause.


Updated: 4/20/2020

  • The Food Bank’s SNAP team has submitted an 87% increase in SNAP applications. The Massachusetts Dept. of Transitional Assistance (DTA), which administers SNAP in Massachusetts, is working at very limited capacity. They are doing as much as they can to assist food-insecure households as quickly as possible.
  • Thanks to advocates across the Commonwealth, including The Food Bank’s Advocacy Team, Massachusetts recently received approval from USDA to implement Pandemic-EBT ( P-EBT).
  • P-EBT benefits will be allocated to households with students who would have received free and reduced-priced school meals but have been unable to access badly needed there meals due to school closures. There are about 500,000 students in Massachusetts who are eligible for this extra benefit.
  • In March, The Food Bank distributed 23% more emergency food than we distributed at this time in 2019. Due to COVID – 19, need in the region continues to increase as temporary food shortages have caused grocery store donations to drop.
  • We purchased emergency meals kits to make up for the loss in retail donations and received a truckload of canned meals today. These meals will be distributed through the Mobile Food Bank, Brown Bag: Food for Elders and to member food pantries and meal sites.
  • A few Mobile Food Bank locations that were temporarily closed (due to partnering organizations being unable to host these events in their parking lots) have reopened. Please check our Mobile Food Bank Schedule to learn more.
  • The Food Bank is extremely grateful to individuals, corporations, and foundations for recent donations and grants of support. These contributions are allowing us to increase the amount of food we distribute to the community.
  • As emergency need increases, we will continue to ask for financial support. Please make a contribution today to help neighbors thrive.

Updated: 3/24/2020

During the COVID-19 crisis, some members of The Food Bank have adjusted their hours or have decided to close. Please refer to this updated schedule and map to find free meals or a food pantry near you. This schedule is updated frequently, so please check back regularly.

Updated Schedule

Updated: 3/18/2020

Here’s what The Food Bank is doing to address the coronavirus on the ground.

The Food Bank will resume operations of our Mobile Food Bank beginning Monday, March 23, 2020.

The one week, temporary suspension of the Mobile Food Bank is allowing our Mobile Food Bank partners to increase food distribution safety in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Infection (CDC) and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (Mass. DPH) COVID-19 guidelines. We look forward to very soon resuming this vital emergency food delivery to individuals and families facing hunger.

Our Brown Bag: Food for Elders program continues operation with major modifications

To ensure the safety of Brown Bag elders and volunteers, as well as our staff, The Food Bank has begun distributing grocery bags outdoors. In many cases, we will stage drive-up distributions that will keep Brown Bag members from needing to leave their vehicles to receive monthly, pre-bagged shelf-stable groceries. Food Bank staff and volunteers are being redeployed to pre-pack Brown Bags at The Food Bank instead of onsite.

Member meal sites and food pantries continue to operate

Aside from a few meal site and food pantry closures, our members continue to operate. Many have changed their distribution methods to keep visitors safe. Most meal programs are now making meals to go, which patrons can pick up and take with them. Many pantries are also distributing food outdoors to help reduce risk of the coronavirus spreading to staff and guests.

We are ordering a truckload of pre-boxed meal kits for emergency distribution

We anticipate it will take approximately three weeks for them to arrive for distribution to the most affected communities.

SNAP Outreach & Enrollment continues to take place by phone only

The Food Bank has cancelled all in-person SNAP Outreach & Enrollment events. However, our SNAP Team can handle all application assistance by phone. Please call 413-247-9738, then press 2 for the Programs’ directory.

We are working with partners across the Commonwealth and nationally to advocate for food assistance

We are advocating for funding from the Governor’s supplemental Coronavirus Aid Package and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP).  Partners include The Greater Boston Food Bank, Worcester County Food Bank, The Merrimack Valley Food Bank, the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, Feeding America, Massachusetts Dept. of Early and Secondary Education, and state and federal legislators.

We are seeking community support by way of monetary donations.

Every $1 donated provides four meals. Food insecure households are at far greater risk of hunger during this increased time of need. Please support struggling seniors, children, people with disabilities, including veterans, and working families.

Once COVID-19 community needs have been met, remaining funds and food will be used to support our ongoing hunger-relief efforts.


Updated:3/17/2020
We are all very concerned about the outbreak of COVID-19. The Food Bank is monitoring the situation closely and following the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, and Feeding America. We will continue to communicate our response to this public health crisis as the situation progresses.  Please refer regularly to this website page for updates that will be made at least weekly.

Food Bank Distribution

The Food Bank is suspending temporarily our Mobile Food Bank, effective immediately, until we can ensure public safety. We are preparing protocols for all Mobile Food Bank site partners to distribute food as safely as possible. Our commitment to feeding our neighbors remains strong. We will communicate shortly the resumption of our Mobile Food Banks.

  • We are developing contingency plans for worse-case scenarios while addressing the immediate need for food assistance.
  • We are seeking state and federal emergency food assistance with partnering food banks in the Commonwealth.
  • We are in communication with private food donors and other potential resources to secure emergency food and related support.
  • Disaster preparedness is part of The Food Bank’s ongoing operations; measures are being taken to ensure continuity of operations.
  • Our top priority is to   prevent the transmission of COVID-19, provide food assistance, and minimize larger societal disruption.

Volunteers

  • During this public health crisis, volunteers will be accepted by invitation only. We appreciate community support and need to ensure the safety of our employees to carry out our mission.
  • During this crisis, if you would like to support The Food Bank and individuals facing hunger, please consider making a generous financial contribution so that we may purchase emergency food. Every dollar donated can provide the equivalent of four meals.

More on Supporting our Neighbors

  • The Food Bank will continue to distribute food in all four counties of western Massachusetts.
  • To avoid service contamination, The Food Bank is adopting infection control practices following CDC guidelines.
  • We are offering guidance on best practices to our members (local food pantries and meal sites) as this public health crisis unfolds.
  • We continue to encourage individuals and households facing hunger to refer to this updated list on our website of members that are currently providing food assistance. As independent organizations, these food pantries and meal sites are making their own decisions about whether to continue or cancel services during the public health crisis. Please check this list regularly and call them directly prior to visiting to check for hours of operation.

Important information about COVID -19

  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (the CDC), the coronavirus is transmitted through close personal contact, not food. We will take every possible measure to ensure that we distribute food safely.

As we are sure that you are aware, a collective effort is necessary to help alleviate the effects of the coronavirus here in our community. We thank you for supporting your neighbors in need and our mission to feed our neighbors and lead the community to end hunger.