Last month, Bay Aging launched a new mobile food pantry program, delivering shelf-stable groceries sourced from local grocery stores and the Healthy Harvest Food Bank, to area seniors who are sheltering at home.
In its first week, 250 bags of groceries were delivered to the residents of Bay Aging’s senior apartments across the region.
Now, the program is being expanded to include interested residents of senior apartments in addition to the 10 income-restricted senior apartment complexes operated by Bay Aging. “We had planned to expand mobile food pantry deliveries over the next several weeks by enrolling additional seniors and local grocery stores into the program,” said Bay Aging’s President and CEO Kathy Vesley.
“We are now partnering with Hands Across Middlesex to substantially increase our collective abilities to provide not only shelf-stable groceries but meat, bakery goods, fresh produce, paper products, cleaning supplies, pet food and much more,” she said. “While we have a robust Meals on Wheels program and continue to provide free restaurant meals to area seniors through our Helping Neighbors initiative, these services are restricted to people who are sixty or older. Hands Across Middlesex’s resources are available to people of all ages. Together we are growing the Mobile Food Pantry program.”
Dave Cryer, Vice President and Food Pantry Chairman of Hands Across Middlesex, noted that during the COVID-19 crisis “we haven’t been able to reach as many people as we should be” as their outreach system is heavily dependent upon communications through church parishioners who also comprise much of HAM’s volunteer base. “Half of our outreach is the sign in the front of the Cryer Center (HAM’s headquarters in Locust Hill) and word of mouth. Since churches aren’t meeting, we are looking for customers. We distribute 30,000 pounds of food each month. People can come to us or our volunteers can come to them,” Cryer added.
“We have so many resources including our Coronavirus Food Assistance Program which is a partnership with local farmers that provides pre-boxed containers of fresh produce, foods that are low in salt or sugar and even emergency food services,” he said. “We want to give it all away and can provide these groceries to people of all ages.”
Combining Bay Aging’s communications and transportation infrastructure with HAM’s food pantry resources will facilitate expansion of the program. Both nonprofits also benefit from having a well-organized volunteer base. “We still have a lot of work to do to ensure area residents are safe and well fed while contending with these challenging times,” said Vesley. “We have already distributed sign-up forms at some of the area’s senior apartments encouraging residents receive food and household items through Hands Across Middlesex. This partnership will bolster Bay Aging’s ability to operate a grocery distribution service over a large, 10-county area.”
For more information about Bay Aging’s mobile food pantry program, or to volunteer or donate, visit www.bayaging.org. For those without access to the internet, call Bay Aging at 1-800-493-0238. For more information about Hands Across Middlesex, call or email Dave Cryer at 804-363-0280 or firstname.lastname@example.org.