By Laura Hayes, Contributing Writer
Southborough – Tucked in the back of Pilgrim Congregational Church at 15 Common, volunteers with the Southborough Food Pantry were busy on a recent Wednesday afternoon unloading their weekly supply of food from the Worcester County Food Bank.
The pantry regularly serves 66 families for a total of 140 individuals, 10 of which are new since COVID-19. In March 2020, the pantry was serving 30 families.
“It’s scary what families are going through right now, and the resources to help them aren’t always there,” said Marjorie Coldwell, who is the food pantry coordinator for Pilgrim Congregational Church.
The pantry is run by the United Parishes of Southborough, which include Pilgrim Congregational Church, First Community Church, St. Anne Catholic Church, St. Mark’s Episcopal Church and St. Matthew Catholic Church.
Clients have the option of coming to the pantry once a week, and Coldwell said some of the clients have been using the pantry more regularly.
The pantry was started by the Pilgrim Congregational Church nurse in 1990. Back then, the pantry was housed in a closet across from the minister’s office.
After several years, the volunteers running the pantry realized that the closet was “definitely not enough,” Coldwell said.
The pantry was incorporated under the United Parishes of Southborough and has expanded and grown to its current home.
Coldwell is a member of Pilgrim Congregational Church and volunteered with the food pantry for over 20 years.
She first worked with the pantry in 2000 after organizing hot meals to be delivered to homeless families in local motels three times a week as part of the church’s outreach committee along with volunteers from other churches in Southborough, Hopkinton and Framingham.
Why has she continued to volunteer with the pantry?
“Just the people you meet and the needs that are out there that you don’t know about. Because it’s not just a matter of food — there are other things that they need. … It’s just so many more hours than this pantry itself, and it just feels good to know that you’re helping somebody,” Coldwell said.
The pantry has made some changes since the pandemic started — from how clients place their orders, how those orders are filled, who can come to the pantry and what days the pantry is open.
Typically, the pantry is open only to Southborough residents and members of the parishes, but the pantry is now open to all.
Some of the food is purchased using grants or donated from community members and local organizations and businesses. Coldwell said there are some items that can be used, such as toilet paper, paper towels, Kleenex, trash bags, Ziploc bags, boxed and bottled juice, Capri Sun, cookies and crackers. There’s also a list of needed food on the pantry’s Facebook page.
The pantry is partnered with the Worcester County Food Bank. Prior, the volunteers would go to the food bank once a month, but now the pantry has a weekly standing appointment.
That standing appointment changed what days the food pantry was open from Tuesday to Thursday. Currently, its hours are Thursday from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m., and Fridays from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m.
On Wednesday, volunteers parked their cars, filled with boxes of food, fresh from the food bank. They stacked the boxes on metal carts and wheeled them into the pantry.
One of these volunteers was Linda Ayers, who is a member of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church.
“[I volunteer] for the wonderful people and a chance to make a difference to the people who live in the community,” she said.
For more information visit southboroughfoodpantry.org or call 508-485-4847.