Westborough Food Pantry works to keep up with demand


Westborough Food Pantry works to keep up with demand
Polly Thayer, coordinator of volunteers and food drives for the Westborough Food Pantry, checks the latest donations, including a homemade dessert from a resident. (Photo/Maureen Sullivan)

WESTBOROUGH – On a cold Thursday morning, people waited just outside the Westborough Food Pantry.

The pantry is located at the back of the Forbes Community Building on East Main Street.

The door opened, and a few people – no more than five – walked into the small, but well-stocked, space. Once inside, they began choosing the food and other items they needed – canned goods, meats, fruits, vegetables, baked goods, personal hygiene products.

In a room off the main lobby, volunteers sorted the latest round of donations, including a homemade dessert from a resident.

Volunteers said they like the feeling of giving back to the community and interacting with the clients.

“It’s a wonderful cause,” said Frank Bernieri, a volunteer for the past four years. “We have great volunteering, and it helps the local community.”

The constant flow of people giving and receiving donations is part of a typical day at the pantry.

“We can handle anything,” said Polly Thayer, the pantry’s coordinator of volunteers and food drives.

That includes questions about eligibility, volunteer availability – even emergency deliveries.

Paul Luppold, the pantry’s new president, said it has delivered “to those in distress” three to five times per week.

“We did a lot of deliveries during COVID,” he added.

The mission is simple: If you need food, the food pantry will help you.

Thayer said first-time clients are asked about whether they have Supplemental Nutrition Assistance benefits or Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children benefits – “if there’s a bigger need, we know who to reach out to,” she said.

In 2023, the food pantry provided food and other items for 159 families – more than 425 individuals – in town, ranging from young families to seniors.

“We’ve had an influx of young families, but we do have many seniors,” said Mary Christensen, who’s volunteered at the pantry for over 20 years.

Each family receives up to four bags of groceries depending on the family’s size; each week about 250 bags of food are distributed.

When the food pantry runs low on items, it will purchase whatever’s needed.

“We will buy canned pasta, beef stew … it’s better than rice and ketchup,” said Luppold, referring to a family who had nothing else to eat.

In addition to nonperishable items, the pantry offers fresh meat, bread, milk and eggs purchased through Stop & Shop and Roche Bros.

“We support the work that they do,” said Chris Bingham, assistant manager at the Roche Bros. at Bay State Commons.

The pantry gets a big boost from many organizations, including the Boy Scouts, the Appalachia Service Project, the Post Office, the Westborough Athletic and Social Organization, and Westborough Firefighters Local 3070. Seasonal food drives help fill the shelves; financial donations help fill the gap.

While the food pantry tries to keep up with rising demand, it would like to get the word out to newer residents. Thayer said they would love to have a volunteer with a background in marketing and communications.

“We’re really good with food,” but could use help with communications, said Thayer.

Westborough Food Pantry works to keep up with demand
In 2023, the Food Pantry provided food and other items for 159 families (more than 425 individuals) in town, ranging from young families to seniors. (Photo/Maureen Sullivan)

How to help

Donations of nonperishable items, personal hygiene items and more may be dropped off when the food pantry is open – Tuesdays from 9 to 11 a.m.; and Thursdays from 9 to 11:30 a.m. and 6:30 to 8 p.m. Check https://westboroughfoodpantry.org/, or its Facebook page, or call 508-366-3007, for updates on what is needed.

Financial donations are always welcome. Visit the website to donate via PayPal.

There are more than 80 volunteers at the Food Pantry; they help purchase food; pick up and sort donations; check donations for damage and expiration dates; stock the shelves; maintain the facility; handle administrative duties; and staff the pantry store.

The food pantry could use volunteer translators, especially for Haitian Creole, for clients staying in emergency shelters.

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