2020 Annual Report
As I was preparing to write this, my first, annual report for Acton Community Supper & Food Pantry, I went back and reread several previous reports. Each one started with a sentence about how many changes there had been over the past year. Well, no previous year can compare to the many, many changes of 2020! One thing became very clear, changes will happen each and every year but our Pantry has the overwhelming support of our generous and caring community. This support allows us meet the changes and challenges with flexibility, resilience, and an eye focused on the mission of our organization; to help alleviate food-insecurity in Acton and its contiguous towns.
The end of 2019 and the start of 2020 were off to a smooth start with Megan Bartle, Lindsey Miller and myself settling into our new roles as staff members here at the Pantry without our long-time Executive Director. The Pantry had a reliable volunteer crew of over 100 members, a newly renovated space, a reliable source of food (thanks to our partnership with Greater Boston Food Bank) and a well thought out client choice shopping model. Everyone was relatively happy with the routine and procedures at the Pantry and the clients knew what to expect when they came each week. On average, 45 pounds of food was provided to each of the 260 households that came each week.
Then Corona virus hit and by mid-March safety measures and stay –at –home orders were put in place by the Governor. The Pantry had to quickly adapt and change to keep everyone as safe as possible. It took a few weeks of trying out different methods before a new method that was just right for our Pantry emerged. This new method requires more work – work that is harder and sometimes happens in undesirable conditions – but requires fewer volunteers allowing us to follow social distancing rules to keep everyone as safe as possible while still providing food to the community. Since not everyone has a car and some people were in isolation or quarantine, we also needed to develop a grocery delivery model. Deliveries have been happening for many months now and total 55 on average with a high of 65 on a few weeks.
The three most important factors in the Pantry’s ability to continue to provide food to those who needed it this year were: The Greater Boston Food Bank, the volunteers who stepped in to help when needed, and our strong financial position. Greater Boston Food Bank remained committed to keeping their inventory of nutritious food high enough to meet the need in Eastern Massachusetts; they are distributing 2 million pounds of food per week! When many of our long-time volunteers needed to step away from the Pantry, this community responded overwhelmingly with offers of help; the calls and emails with offers to volunteer or collect food started to pour in. With a combination of returning volunteers, new volunteers, and volunteers from Neighbor Brigade, another local non-profit, Acton Pantry pulled together the 50 or so committed weekly volunteers it now takes to open our doors each week to provide food to everyone who comes looking for food. And, when Greater Boston Food Bank was finding it hard to meet the demand due to the supply chain disruptions early in this crisis, Acton Pantry had the funds needed to make large purchases of food items, such as fresh milk for 300 people, even without our usual yearly fundraiser, Chef’s Challenge. And, community donations and food drives also helped to fill in gaps in to keep our shelves well stocked.
Acton Pantry was able to provide food to its highest number of households served in one day, 333, which happened May 20th. Average weekly numbers were 292 in April, 330 in May, 296 in June and 263 in July. Since July the numbers have been back to an average of 265 - right around where they were in January 2020.
With 8 distribution weeks remaining in 2020 we have already distributed 365,000 lbs of food – a number equivalent to last year’s total. I expect our final number to be close to, or more than, 450,000 lbs. since we still have our Thanksgiving distribution happening in November and that is usually our largest distribution week.
In the middle of all this change, a call came in from Greater Boston Food Bank asking if our truck might be available to help pick up food for those in need in Bedford. Our Board and our truck driver were willing to help our neighbors in Bedford and agreed to a collaboration. Since March, our truck has made many trips to Boston and delivered about 80,000 lbs. of food to Bedford with more trips planned in the coming months.
Here are some other important things that happened in 2020:
Megan Bartle resigned from Acton Pantry at the end of June to allow her to spend more time helping her family. We thank her for all her hard work and time over the many years she was a part of the Pantry. We were all sorry to see her go but also understood her reasons for making the change. Lindsey Miller accepted a larger staff role at the Pantry after Megan’s departure, thank you Lindsey!
The Pantry’s plan for purchasing a new truck has been put on hold for many reasons but money donated toward that new truck in Rob Cruz’s name is held aside for that purchase when it does finally happen.
The Chef’s Challenge Fundraiser planned for the spring then postponed to the summer was in the end cancelled as was the Greater Boston Food Bank’s annual capacity grant. However, fortunately, a new fundraiser, The Ride for Food, did happen, albeit virtually, and money from that fundraiser will be distributed to our Pantry by the end of 2020.
A new satellite Pantry was set up within the counselling office of the High School in February 2020 and again this school year. The staff at the High School is very supportive of this effort. Thank you Loretta Crumlish for all of the hard work you did to get both the Ride for Food and the High School Pantry started.
I want to personally thank each and every person who has contributed to the operation of the Acton Pantry this year. Every small or large act to support our Pantry has been appreciated and has contributed to sustainability of our organization. If you collected and dropped off paper or plastic grocery bags, did a neighborhood toilet paper collection, or food drive, or bought even one item and dropped it into a local drop box, contributed financially any amount no matter how small, or volunteered your time and talents throughout this pandemic, the Board of Directors and I thank you. This pandemic, as horrible as it is (and really it is just horrible!) has a silver lining, it reminds us all of how caring and kind people can be and how much the need to help others thrives when tragedy happens.