There are some who might be surprised to learn that many Wellesley residents need help putting food on the table. After all, the US Census Bureau puts the 2020 median household income in town at $214K, so with numbers like that, where’s the need? The truth wasn’t publicly acknowledged in Wellesley until the late 1980s that many neighbors aren’t quite so flush and might need some help with the groceries. Seems that residents in need were going over to Natick to access the food pantry in that town, since Wellesley was without such a safety net.
That changed in 1989, when the Wellesley Food Pantry opened its doors at Wellesley Hills Congregational Church thanks to the efforts of representatives from local houses of worship, along with Wellesley Friendly Aid board members. Once the ball got rolling, volunteers quickly stepped up to donate needed items, organize the shelves, and provide monetary support. Today the Pantry is supported by special programs like the annual Letter Carriers’ Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive (which accounts for about 10% of the yearly donated food) and the Wellesley Scouting for Food Drive (which brings in about 40% of food donations). Given that both those drives were canceled during the pandemic, the spike in monetary donations of $130,854 donated to the Pantry in 2021 was a welcome infusion of resources.
In addition, the Wellesley Food Pantry gets donations from area businesses, houses of worship, civic organizations, and everyday people who make room in their grocery carts each week for a few donations to run over to the Pantry. Village Table, a Wellesley-based organization set up during the pandemic to combat food insecurity, is also one of the Pantry’s partners, with the charitable group’s fully prepared, fresh, and nutritious meals a popular item among clients.
“We serve 174 families and 97 children,” said Pantry board of directors president Peter Lull in during an interview at the Pantry. “Usually our breakout is about a third of clients 18 years and younger, and about a third 65 years and older,” with the rest falling somewhere in between.
How to donate
There are two constants in the world of the Wellesley Food Pantry—donations are always needed, and space at the pantry is always limited.
“We don’t have a ton of storage space,” says Lull. “We ask that when people want to donate they really stick to the specific wish list we have because we don’t have the room to store a lot of excess inventory.”
Check the Pantry website for the wish list for items most in need at the moment. There are also collection bins at Roche Bros. and Whole Foods. Or you can do a curbside drop-off on Mondays, 2pm-3pm, at the west entrance of Wellesley Hills Congregational Church, 207 Washington St.
Largesse from vegetable gardens is also welcome. Residents can drop fresh produce donations on Tuesdays, 8am-11:30am, in the Wellesley Hills Church kitchen (from the west entrance, down the stairs and to the right before entering the assembly room).
Monetary donations are also welcome. On average the Pantry spends over $2,000 per week to purchase foods such as fresh vegetables and fruits, meats, eggbeaters and other perishable items, as well as non-perishables when donations are low. Almost all monetary donations ($130K in 2021) go directly to stocking the Pantry, as administrative expenses are minimal—the staff and management are all volunteers, and the Wellesley Hills Congregational Church provides the Pantry with rent-free space.
207 Washington Street
Wellesley, MA 02481
How to volunteer
Helping out at the Food Pantry is one of those gigs in town that people tend to hang onto once they secure their spot. Lull has volunteered for over 15 years. “We are always willing to take names, but for the most part we’re pretty well staffed. We don’t get a lot of volunteer turnover,” he said.
He says there are several dozen regular volunteers and dozens of occasional helpers from Wellesley Service League, National Charity League, Wellesley Hills Junior Women’s Club, and more.
How to register for help from the Pantry
Support from the Wellesley Food Pantry is open to all qualified Wellesley residents. Residents needing Food Pantry assistance can register by email, mail, or in person with an appointment. More information here.
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