Past Year’s Changes Prompt Food Pantry to Rethink New Location
By J.D. O’Gara
The Franklin Food Pantry recently announced that it has re-evaluated the suitability of its new location at 138 East Central Street. The Board of Directors decided to put the property up for sale, as it concluded the site was not suitable for operations and programming that had changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, such as curbside distribution, home delivery and holiday distribution.
Tina Powderly, Executive Director of the Franklin Food Pantry, told Local Town Pages a bit about the change of direction.
“What we’ve found is our services around home delivery – our new home delivery program and mobile delivery became very important, addressing some of the needs other than food,” says Powderly. “It’s an opportunity to connect with a familiar face, a point of resource for them if they were struggling with a particular issue. We found that our home delivery program really helped with that communication and the isolation.”
Although the mobile delivery program had already existed, the pandemic changed up the model.
“Primarily before, we would go to Central Park Terrace and be in the community room,” says Powderly, but then the community room closed due to Covid. “We still do delivery of the mobile pantry to Central Park Terrace,” says Powderly. This takes place on the second Monday of the month, and anyone interested can contact the Franklin Food Pantry to sign up. In addition, the Franklin Food Pantry recently partnered with the Hockomock YMCA to deliver to residents of Glen Meadow, delivering on the third Wednesday of the month.
Beyond the mobile delivery, the Franklin Food Pantry’s home delivery program came about, “because there were folks in the early days of COVID who weren’t encouraged to leave. We had a lot of clients who don’t have resource networks, who don’t have folks who could maybe go out and get food for them, and they had serious health concerns, to risk going out. It started with just trying to bring food to people with health risks of being exposed (to the virus).
Since then, says Powderly, the food pantry has learned of “a whole host of folks who may not be able to come to us to access the food.” Although, “generally speaking, it’s a short-term program,” says Powderly, “home delivery has, for me, been one of the most real time gratifying programs that we’ve put in recently, because you know this particular person just literally can’t get out to get the food, and you’re bringing it to their door and providing relief.” Despite Covid, she says, that program is going to stay. Powderly thanks the contributions of the Franklin Police Department in reaching out to this population.
In terms of a new location, the Board of Directors is actively pursuing other options for a new Franklin Food Pantry site, noting they are grateful to Rockland Trust for allowing them to continue to operate under their roof.
“We are one of the largest food pantries in the area in terms of what we provide,” says Powderly, who says the busy Thanksgiving distribution and December holiday meal “is one of the most moving programs we do. If you’re not food insecure, they’re moments of happiness, but if you’re food insecure, it can be a stress, so you can focus on family and friends and not worry about where (dinner) is going to come from.”
Recently updated information shows that the Franklin Food Pantry served nearly 1,100 people in the last fiscal year, including 600 adults, 300 children and 177 seniors, 47% of whom live alone. During COVID, says Powderly, over a third of those who visited the Franklin Food Pantry came for emergency visits (one or two times).
“The Greater Boston Food Bank had the same experience. What that tells us is that while there were a lot of people who benefited from the expansion of federal benefits, a higher proportion of folks were living paycheck to paycheck and really moved into food insecurity with the loss of jobs due to COVID, so the safety net we provided became really important.”
The Franklin Food Pantry has recently added back in-person shopping.
“With vaccination status being very high, the winter coming, and COVID hopefully being a little bit more under control, we’re changing our distribution model to hybrid,” says Powderly. “We’re keeping curbside and home delivery Tuesday day and Tuesday evening, but we’re adding in-person shopping on Thursday and Friday. It brings a level of choice back to folks. When you come inside, you can do a full shop, but it’s going to be very limited, by appointment only.”
To make an appointment for in-person shopping, call Laura Du at the food pantry, or email her at [email protected]
The Franklin Food Pantry is not funded by the Town of Franklin. As a private, nonprofit organization, it depends on donations from individuals, corporations, foundations and other strategic partners. The Pantry is located at 43 W. Central St. in Franklin on Route 140 across from the Franklin Fire Station. Visit www.franklinfoodpantry.org for more information.