The Lunenburg Community Food Bank
- Categorized in: Community
Jane Doyle, chairperson of the Lunenburg Community Council, Raymond C. Adams, Bea Adams, Helen K. Brockelman and Lisa Normandin, president of the Lions Club pack up boxes for the Lunenburg Community Food Bank Tuesday morning.
There are 554,000 people in Massachusetts struggling to put food on the table, according to statistics compiled by Project Bread. Further, 8.3 percent of all Massachusetts households were food insecure, and “nearly half of those households experienced hunger,” according to Project Bread.
These are sobering statistics, but also represent a country struggling with a 10 percent unemployment rate, (8.9 percent in Massachusetts) and recovering from a recession.
Lunenburg is not immune to the struggles of the everyday American to put food on the table. Since August 2007, The Lunenburg Community Council and Lions Club have helped found the Lunenburg Community Food Bank, where residents in need can go to receive canned goods and non-perishable food items, while those in the community can donate goods to help those in need.
It is “neighbors helping neighbors with integrity, dignity and confidentiality,” Jane Doyle, chairperson of the Lunenburg Community Council said of the program.
Food can be donated at the Lunenburg Public Safety Building anytime and the first Friday of the month, volunteers from the Council and Lions Club will greet those who drop off food. There are also drop off boxes at the Town Hall, the library and Eagle House.
“We accept anything that is nonperishable, whether it is canned goods, dry goods, like cereal,” or peanut butter, said David Berthiaume, Food Bank manager and member of the Lions Club for 11 years.
Each morning, Berthiaume makes a trip to Hannaford to pick up produce and bakery goods donated from the store to deliver to the Teen and Senior centers. He also holds a Hit or Miss bakery at the Eagle House once a month and he and other Lions Club members bring food to senior housing.
Berthiaume said receiving food for the pantry has been a community effort as local schools conduct different food drives and other community organizations such as the Turkey Hill Garden Club also contribute to the food bank. Hannaford also donates food to the program.
Berthiaume said currently the food bank is serving more families than in 2008.
“Last year we were averaging 30 to 35 families per month,” Berthiaume said. “This year, we (are serving) 40 to 42 families per month.
In addition, at Thanksgiving, the Lions Club gave out 98 baskets to families in need for the holidays.
An example of the increase is in the month of September, 51 families were served compared to 36 families served in 2007 when the program first began.
The number of those in need is increasing, and Berthiaume said while the program has been beneficial he is worried that he is not reaching everyone.
“People do not want to make that call,” Berthiaume said explaining how it can be hard for families to ask for help.
Those in the community who are in need of food can contact the school nurse at the schools, their pastor or simply go to the Eagle House. From there, they are given information on how they can receive food from the pantry. It is strictly confidential.
Doyle said she has received phone calls from individuals trying to explain their circumstances, when she says that is not necessary.
Their reaction, she said, is usually “they are so happily surprised, as they are used to explaining to people why they need something. We ask no questions. The only thing we ask is that you live in Lunenburg.”
Once a resident is able to connect with someone from the Council or Lions Club they are set up with a box of food, which usually lasts a couple of weeks or sometimes longer.
While Council officials say they have received a large number of donations, they always need more.
The importance of the program is essential to the community of Lunenburg as before 2007 they did not have a local food community bank where people in the community could receive assistance.
History of the program
“We began this program not knowing the economy was going to go down the tubes,” Berthiaume said.
Doyle said the local chapter of the Lions Club was formed in 2007 and it worked with the Council to form a partnership for the food bank.
In explaining why Lunenburg went so long without a food pantry, Doyle said the town was always thought of as an affluent community.
People thought, according to Doyle, that “there weren’t any (people) who needed anything in Lunenburg. This is what people thought. There wasn’t really recognition that your neighbor might have no food in the icebox. It just wasn’t there. If it were, it was handled very quietly neighbor to neighbor.”
The Council, which was established in 1953, began receiving requests for food and heat assistance.
From there, it was apparent to council and Lions Club officials that a food bank needed to be established.
“There is a huge need,” Doyle said, emphasizing that people often do not only need food assistance but also need aid to help pay for their electricity and heat.
While the food bank program does not provide direct heat assistance, Doyle said the Council hands out pamphlets, which give residents information on how they can go about getting that assistance.
Most important during these tough times, Doyle said it is important for people to check in on their neighbors and make sure there is food and heat in the home.
Lisa Normandin, president of the Lions Club, in an interview Tuesday said it was important for people to know that the food bank serves people year-round, not just during the holidays.
Bea Adams, a volunteer for the food bank and part of Adults Learning in the Fitchburg Area, said, “there is a greater need than a lot of people realize.”
While taking time out of their busy schedules to help those in need can require some juggling, Berthiaume said it is worth it.
“I know it is very gratifying,” he said.
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