Residents’ generosity helps to restock Westborough Food Pantry

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(l to r) Donna Kittredge, co-president, Westborough Food Pantry; Terry Gavin, In Your Shoes; State Sen. Jamie Eldridge; and members of the Hogan family pose for a photo on the pantry’s lawn with some of the over 6,000 pounds of food and items collected.
Photo/Bonnie Adams

Nearly 7,000 lbs. of food and items donated during town-wide drive

By Bonnie Adams, Managing Editor

Westborough –  As Donna Kittredge looked over the hundreds of food and personal care items spread on the lawn of the Westborough Food Pantry’s lawn thanks to a town-wide food drive held on the morning of  May 30, she was thrilled she said, but not surprised.

“Westborough is the best community,” Kittredge, who shares the duties of pantry president with her husband, Phil. “They are always are so very generous.”

The food drive was an initiative of In your Shoes, a nonprofit giving circle dedicated to giving “time, talents, and monetary resources to provide assistance and financial support to those in need.” The group organized the May 30 food drive by asking residents to sign up to participate and then leaving items in their driveway which were then picked up by a team of volunteers who brought them to the pantry.

At day’s end, 6,716 pounds of food and supplies had been donated, which was very much need by the pantry, Donna Kittredge said.

For the past two months, the Kittredges, along with the pantry’s volunteers, have grappled at how best to serve residents in need of food.

Since the pandemic struck in March, the pantry has been operating under a different model. Located in the Forbes Community House (9 East Main St.), it was closed for pickups and donations due to health concerns. Patrons were still serviced by volunteers who dropped off items and gift cards to local grocery stores.

But not being open for donations meant the shelves were quite bare.

And with so many people either finding themselves unemployed or unable to work for health reasons during the pandemic, there was an increasing number of residents facing food insecurity. During “normal” times, the pantry serves approximately 130 families. Over the past two months, that number has climbed to approximately 160 families.

Joining in as a pickup volunteer the morning of the drive was State Sen. Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton). It was not the first time the senator had assisted with the pantry’s operations, Phil Kittredge noted.  Thanks to a $50,000 grant that Eldridge helped to secure, the pantry will finally now have air conditioning.

“This is such a wonderful thing,” Kittredge said to Eldridge. “Sometimes it gets really hot in some of the rooms, up to the high 90s. And many of our volunteers are elderly – that was not good for them. So we are so appreciative.”

“I was happy to help,” Eldridge replied, “and happy to be here this morning. People were so generous! “

Kittredge also praised In Your Shoe’s member Terry Gavin, who helped to organize the drive.

“She and the other volunteers here this morning really deserve all the credit in the world,” he said. “We could not have done this without them.”

The pantry will be opening June 4 and 18 for pre-boxed grocery pick up for present and new clients, from 9-11:30 a.m. and then hopefully back to its regular schedule in July.

Additionally, the Westborough Appalachia Service Project will be running another food drive on Saturday, June 27.  They will be using a similar format where residents may register via email at ahead of time at Westboroughfooddrive@gmail.com  and volunteers will come and pick up the donations. Traditional staples such as mac and cheese, pasta sauce, rice, beans and paper products are always desired but items such as cookies and crackers are also welcome donations.