Annual Report – Fiscal Year 2020
October 1, 2019 – September 30, 2020
The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts has published our annual report with our lists of donors online. This digital format reduces our environmental impact and printing and mailing costs, so that we can distribute more healthy food throughout the region. Thank you to all of our donors who continue to support our mission. We are honored to count you as a partner in our effort to feed our neighbors in need and lead the community to end hunger.
From the Executive Director & Board President
While 2020 is the year we all want to put behind us, we’re not out of the woods yet. We must remember the toll this past year has taken on so many people who continue to struggle and suffer immensely. Food insecurity – the uncertainty of not having enough healthy food to eat – spiked to its highest levels in our 39-year history. By the end of our fiscal year (September 30, 2020), The Food Bank and our 169 local partner food pantries, meal sites and shelters were providing healthy food to an average 102,000 individuals monthly – a 12% increase over 2019.
Many people have shared their stories with us – from families grateful for food assistance they never needed before, parents ashamed they couldn’t provide food for their children, and vulnerable women facing higher levels of domestic violence, to elders who relied on us because their monthly benefits ran out.
We also heard from many individuals and business owners who were able and felt compelled to support our neighbors in need of food assistance. We are so grateful to all our donors for your time, talent and resources to support our cause. Your outpouring of financial support resulted in a 191% increase in cash donations, which enabled us to increase food distribution by 23% over the previous year to a record high of the equivalent of 12.4 million meals.
Last year, 92% percent of the food we distributed was totally free to our local partners. Thanks to your generous support, we also provided partners account credits and capacity grants respectively to purchase more food through us in bulk at wholesale prices and equipment elsewhere to adapt to the coronavirus.
We will continue to expand our operations, support our local partners, and purchase more fresh vegetables from local farmers to meet the record-high need for food assistance.
Thinking long term, we are now launching a five-year capital campaign to build a new Food Bank distribution center and headquarters in Chicopee. This larger and greener facility will give us greater capacity to meet the need in all four counties of western Massachusetts for decades to come.
The Food Bank wouldn’t be what it’s become without your generosity last year and, for many of you, many years prior. We hope that those who count on us may continue to count on you to ensure healthy food for all, regardless of the circumstances. Thank you!
COVID-19 & food insecurity in western Massachusetts
A year like no other – supporting our communities with healthy food
The past year has been one like no other as our country and the world closed down to fight the spread of COVID-19. The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts and our network of partner food pantries, meal programs, Brown Bag and Mobile Food Bank sites shifted into high gear to meet the challenge of providing food to tens of thousands of people every month in our region who were suddenly in need of help.
Of course, every year, month in and month out, The Food Bank serves people who can’t afford enough food for themselves and their families. This is an ongoing emergency that effects our neighbors in every city and town in our region.
But starting last March, we suddenly began seeing thousands of new people who had never needed to visit a feeding site before. These newcomers were people who had lost their jobs or had their hours cut, whose children were suddenly home all the time and were no longer eating lunch and breakfast at school, or who were cut off from the support of family and friends because of social distancing requirements.
It was a worrying time for The Food Bank. Would we have enough food for everyone who needed it? Could we process that food with many fewer volunteers and get it to people safely? Could we support our local partners to serve everyone who needed help, and could they withstand the sudden influx of people?
As it turned out, the answer to all those questions was yes. Our Food Operations team worked with current and new food suppliers to bring in additional food. Our SNAP outreach team began assisting people by telephone. And our local partners – ever resourceful and creative – quickly found ways to adapt. Because many of their elderly volunteers stayed home due to the virus, they suddenly had to do more work with fewer people. Food pantries moved their distributions outside, in many cases depositing bags of food directly into the trunks of peoples’ cars. Meal sites, no longer able to serve meals to large groups, switched to take-out. Brown Bag sites began distributing bags, pre-packed at The Food Bank, in the parking lots of closed senior centers. Our Nutrition staff, who were no longer able to conduct outreach and workshops, stepped up to help in other ways.
During this time, The Food Bank awarded nearly $650,000 in grants to our local partners to purchase healthy food and needed supplies such as masks and hand sanitizer, large tents, heaters for outdoor distributions in cold weather, takeout containers, refrigerators and freezers to hold additional food, and even vehicles to deliver food directly to people who were home-bound.
It has been inspiring and gratifying to see the dedication of staff and volunteers at The Food Bank and our local partner sites, who are willing to work through the hard times to make sure our neighbors in need can put good, healthy food on their tables.
Warren, McGovern, and Sabadosa visit The Food Bank
The Food Bank was honored recently to receive a visit from Senator Elizabeth Warren, Congressman Jim McGovern, and State Representative Lindsay Sabadosa. The legislators, who are strong hunger-relief advocates locally and nationally, toured our warehouse in Hatfield to learn more about the current state of regional food insecurity as well as the measures The Food Bank is taking to address long-term solutions to hunger. This included a pitch for government support of our future, larger and greener new distribution center and headquarters in Chicopee.
Andrew Morehouse, Executive Director of The Food Bank and Erica Flores, Board President, stressed that they do not expect increased demand to decline anytime soon, and additional funding is needed for safety net programs like SNAP.
“Children, elders, people with disabilities, including veterans, and increasingly people who are playing by the rules and working full time suddenly had the rug pulled out from under them and without assets to fall back on,” Morehouse said. “These are the folks we’re trying to support.”
Warren, McGovern and Sabadosa added that systemic changes are necessary to address hunger. “We need to plan for better systems to make sure that everyone gets the food they need all year round – pandemic or not,” Warren stated.
“I don’t know what we would have done if this food bank didn’t exist during this pandemic,” McGovern added. “There’s not a single community, in Massachusetts or anywhere in the United States, that is hunger free, and we all should be ashamed of that fact.”
Food Bank Donors
Thank you to all of our donors who continue to support our mission. We are honored to count you as a partner in our effort to feed our neighbors in need and lead the community to end hunger. You can view and download the FY20 Annual Report (PDF) with the full donor list here:
More about The Food Bank
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Fiscal Year: 2019
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Fiscal Year: 2017
The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. As a gold-level GuideStar participant, we demonstrate our commitment to transparency. Check our GuideStar profile for more financial information, including our IRS Form 990.
SNAP application assistance is still available via phone at (413) 992-6204. Please check our SNAP page for more information.