By Zack Lamothe.
In early November, the South Shore Food Bank opened its doors to help those in the region facing food uncertainty.
In partnership with the Weymouth Food Pantry, the food bank assists with logistics between the Greater Boston Food Bank and food pantries serving communities on the South Shore. The new facility is equipped with two loading docks so that large trucks can easily load and unload, and a large walk-in fridge and walk-in freezer. Prior, the food pantries had to travel to Boston (sometimes only once or twice a month) to access the supply from the Greater Boston Food Bank. The location of the food bank will improve food access in the region, and more importantly, will increase the amount of access pantries have to fresh healthy food options.
The Executive Director’s Thoughts
Pamela Denholm is the executive director of the Weymouth Food Pantry and has helped orchestrate the creation of the South Shore Food Bank. In speaking about the development of the South Shore Food Bank, Denholm relates, “The Weymouth Food Pantry is the largest food pantry on the South Shore to operate without other social services. Because we’re food only, we’ve had the luxury of focusing on food insecurity and what it looks like.”
Food insecurity is a multifaceted issue; it is not simply one idea. Understanding what barriers there are to obtaining food security is an important step. One of the largest barriers in the Weymouth community is transport. Denholm continues, “Food insecurity looks different across genders, ages, races, immigration status.” For instance, the situation facing a child with food insecurity may be much different than that of an adult. Young children may struggle with opening a certain container or wrapper, preventing them from actually ingesting the food.
Community Member Challenges
Keeping and understanding the plight of different demographic groups is an all-important aspect to breaking the barriers leading to food security. A senior citizen may struggle to prepare a large difficult to peel or chop items such as cabbage or butternut squash, or open a tight lid preventing them from actually eating even if they have received the food. The exploration of seeing food insecurity through different lenses, even including small nuances from town to town in the area, has led the pantry to be able to cater to the needs of the individual instead of simply a blanket idea.
The Weymouth Food Pantry is not a traditional brick-and-mortar pantry. Instead, they have a warehouse located in Rockland and they serve their neighbors through pop-up pantries located throughout the community at different times and places. “During Covid we were able to take very large donations, around 30,000 pounds of food, into our warehouse because we had tractor-trailer access and a loading dock. No other food pantry on the South Shore could do that because they didn’t have those two.”
“Through the South Shore Food Bank we can offer warehousing, storage, and logistics support, strengthening the network of food pantries. We are a resource for our sister pantries so that they can do what they do better. The food bank idea came from the vision that trucks could unload food, and at the same time, food pantries could come and take items from there.
Who They Serve
Initially, the geographic area served by the South Shore Food Bank was eighteen communities; in only a short time, this has grown. “At first we outlined the eighteen communities on the South Shore but after a week or two have already included Hyde Park, Randolph, and Holbrook. We really haven’t defined the area because we want to say, “if you need help, we’re here.” Denholm relates.
The holiday season can be very difficult for those facing food insecurity. During the ravages of the Covid, last year there was much anxiety around Thanksgiving, with food security. This year though, the need has been even greater, it is at the highest level of need in all of the years of the food pantry. This is compounded by rising food prices and the shortage of groceries.
Hunger in SE MA Featured in eSS&SC Fall Edition
Recently Pamela shared her story in the fall issue of edible South Shore & South Coast as the topic of the fall edition is facing hunger in Southeastern Massachusetts. She details heart-wrenching stories of individuals she has come in contact with while working at the pantry during Covid. It’s a must-read!