United Way of North Central Massachusetts addresses critical needs in the region including food insecurity, housing, and other basic needs through a number of ways including funding, convening stakeholders and working with partners. Combat Hunger was the UWNCM’s flagship program for many years, but since the pandemic things have changed and new ways of addressing food insecurity has evolved. In September 2022, the UWNCM brought together stakeholders from the region to discuss what food insecurity looks like today, what needs addressing and how our organization can assist.
Since that first meeting in September the group of over 25 food pantries, many local nonprofits and other stakeholders have mobilized to fight food insecurity in our region. This initial roundtable discussion has led to “United to Feed North Central Massachusetts,” a regional approach.
This approach includes working together to collect food throughout the year including a major food drive for the holidays. We are working on ways to establish a transportation hub system and shared resources. Education programming is also a focus area. One area we plan to address first is educating our local food pantries and others as to how utilizing SNAP benefits can not only benefit their clients but also their pantry.
Two significant working groups were set up as part of this initiative to address different problems in our region. The Food Drive and the Shared Resources Working Groups.
The Food Drive Working Group undertook their first food drive for the 2022 December holiday season. That drive resulted in collecting over $20,000 in in-kind donations of food, socks, mittens, and more. These donations came from local businesses, banks, churches and people in the community. To supplement this drive, the UWNCM purchased over $6,000 worth of food and fresh organic produce from local farms. We were able to feed 450 families (1,100 individuals) during the December holiday season.
Our Shared Resources Working Group developed and implemented a survey that went to all the local food pantries. Twenty-four pantries responded to questions regarding when they go to the food bank, how often do they go, is their schedule flexible and other questions that will help this working group develop a transportation hub system.
If you are interested in donating, organizing a food drive, volunteering, or need more information about the work this regional initiative is doing, please contact Judy Tomlinson at 978-345-1577 ext. 303 or by email at Judy@uwncm.org.