As a businessman, I enjoy learning about creative ways that the private sector is working to meet the needs of the community. Not-for-profit organizations often find innovative ways to meet existing needs without the creation of massive government programs. Last week, I was honored to take a tour of the Hebron Food Pantry in Attleboro, a good example of one of these innovative nonprofits.
Operating out of Centenary United Methodist Church, the Hebron Food Pantry is the only nonprofit in Massachusetts that assists low income or "working poor" with access to healthy and nutritious food. All other food pantries or food banks require that the participant qualify for food stamps or other government programs.
We met with Rev. Lehlohonolo Montjane from Centenary UMC and Michelle Burch, the director of Hebron Food Pantry, for a tour and a discussion about the struggles and challenges that the organization faces in serving this community.
Like almost everyone that I meet with, the clients of Hebron Food Pantry are struggling in this economy. These are the people who fall through the cracks of our social welfare net. They work and make too much to qualify for food assistance programs such as SNAP (formerly food stamps), but they still can’t make ends meet. Many of them are seniors or parents. Since the economic downturn in 2009, the Pantry has seen a 30% increase in demand without an increase in resources to supply those needs.
Unlike many food pantries, visitors to Hebron can do their own shopping and food selection. The food pantry is set up like a grocery store, and shoppers can select non-perishable foods such as canned vegetables, rice, beans, pasta and canned meat. Hebron also works with local grocery stores and vendors to provide a free selection of fresh meat, baked bread and produce.
“I try to get food that is healthy and nutritious,” said Burch. “By picking their own box, visitors can maintain their dignity and self-respect.”
Each week, Hebron distributes between 8,000-10,000 pounds of food to the community. Through partnerships with the Greater Boston Food Bank, the pantry can purchase about $100 worth of food for only $5.
Like any entrepreneur or start-up, nonprofits like the Hebron Food Pantry see a need in the community and seek to fill it. I hope that others in the area will join me in supporting the work that the Pantry does in the Attleboro community
Through September 30, we will be collecting food at Bielat for Congress offices in Foxboro and Newton. Please stop by with a donation of a non-perishable food item. Whether you are stopping by the Foxboro office to pick up a yard sign or the Newton location to phone bank, please help the campaign give back to the Attleboro community and fill a need that our government entitlement programs are failing.