These are lean times for many, and we felt like we should check in on the Wellesley Food Pantry to see how the 30-year old charitable organization and its clients are doing during this time of pandemic and 15% unemployment in Massachusetts. The pantry is located at the Unitarian Universalist Society of Wellesley Hills (UUWH) for the summer. They expect to move back in September to their permanent home at the Wellesley Hills Congregational Church once renovations are complete at that space.
Peter Lull, president of the pantry’s Board of Directors, met up with me at UUWH to give me a tour. If you’ve ever been in an old church that has one of those vast multi-purpose rooms where everything happens from games of tag to rummage sales, then you’ve got the picture. Lull thinks the space is just perfect. He says, “The accommodations have been really been wonderful. UU has welcomed us with open arms. They’ve made it easy to work during this time of transition.”
The location isn’t the only thing that has changed. The way the pantry conducts its mission has undergone a dramatic re-work. “We have fewer volunteers working to keep the pantry running because of social distancing requirements and the vulnerability of our volunteers, who tend to skew older. So many are sitting out for now. The extra number of hours required to make this work has probably doubled, on average, but we have made it work with our dedicated volunteers. Many clients say how amazed and grateful they are for the job we’re doing. We care and they can tell,” Lull says.
The numbers of families and individuals who rely on the pantry are gently increasing, and the pantry is bracing itself for a continued rise. At the end of December 2019 they had 183 registered households comprising 390 individuals. Lull notes that the number had been steadily declining for the past few years as more of the younger clients found work.
As of June 3rd, he says, “We’re back up to 192 households of 421 individuals — not a huge increase in households, and we expect to see the numbers rise once the unemployment runs out — but the number reflects more volatility than merely 11 new households, since we’ve had others move away from Wellesley.”
Lull also pointed out that 106 of the individuals in December were 18 and under compared with now, when they have 124 in that same age range. So the growth has clearly been in families. In addition, a number of the households served have one or more family members who have lost jobs.
Along with the usual donations of canned goods, pasta, rice, diapers, and more, with the onset of summer, the pantry is taking in more donations of fresh produce. There’s a dedicated drop-off spot at the Weston Road Community Gardens where gardeners can drop off produce for donation to the pantry. A sign at the pantry directs clients to wash fresh produce, and each bag of food comes with a reminder note to do so.
Overall, donations of food and monetary donations continue to come in at a good clip. “We very much appreciate all the support the community has provided for our clients,” Lull says. “We’re a supplement for people who need it. The food we give helps families stretch their dollars.”
As far as donations go, the bad news is that the annual Stamp Out Hunger drive was canceled, an effort that typically results in 10% of the yearly donated food. And it is unknown if the Scouting for Food drive will happen in the fall. That drive accounts for 40% of food donations.
How to donate to the Wellesley Food Pantry
Curbside donations at UUWH’s west entrance are Mondays, 8:30am – 10:30am (look for curbside bins). You can also donate food at the designated donation bins at Roche Bros. in Linden Square and Whole Foods. Here’s the updated wish list.
Checks made out to Wellesley Food Pantry may be sent to 207 Washington Street, Wellesley, MA 02481