Area pantries in need of food and monetary donations

Dec. 9, 2020 | Miasha Lee

GREATER SPRINGFIELD – Due to the rise in COVID-19 cases, several local pantries in East Longmeadow, Longmeadow, Hampden and Wilbraham are having difficulty securing food for their communities as the number of people frequenting the pantries rise.

St. Michael's Parish in East Longmeadow has been operating since the late 1800s and moved to the 128 Maple St. location in 1970.

“The pantry was formed to help outreach to the less fortunate and take care of the people in the town and close by that need assistance,” said Pastoral Minister Beth Chase.

During the pandemic, Chase has been making bags of food for those who call in and leaving it outside for them, so there isn't any contact through people coming to the church. She is also  mailing out grocery cards to community members in order to keep the state mandated health guidelines.

“The need has been greater because people have lost their jobs,” Chase expressed. “t's been different to have to minister like this. I like the human contact; being able to see somebody, being able to put your arm around somebody and being able to reassure them and look them in the eye. It’s a tough challenge to have to overcome. I’m just making sure that everybody is taken care of, but also that we maintain the guidelines and I am doing that through the mail, email, phone calls, packaging things up and leaving them for people in need.”

In terms of donations, usually what the parish does is in their weekly bulletin, which can be accessed online at,  they ask for specific things each week. Specifically, Chase said the parish takes cereal, pasta, canned goods such as, tuna, beans, pasta sauce, canned vegetables, rice, soups, macaroni and cheese and peanut butter and jelly. They don’t take fresh fruit, bread, clothes or diapers. The parish take in basic items that are canned and won’t go bad.

This Christmas, the parish is still collecting food for anyone that needs food in the area locally. They put a list online of toys needed for them to donate to a local children’s charity. They will also collect grocery cards such as target gift cards to hand out to another children’s charity for food, toys or other items needed from Target to help with the holiday.

“We’ve had to be very creative and go outside the box to have the food items, gift cards and donations come in, but also make sure that whatever does go out to those in need is done in a way that does not spread the COVID 19 virus,” Chase responded. ”We’ll continue to maintain and abide by the state health guidelines, and we will keep collecting from the parish and administrating back out to those in need in the community in the safest way possible.”

For monetary donations, a check can be made out to St. Michael's Parish. Then in the memo line put Outreach Program and mail it to the church at 128 Maple St., East Longmeadow, MA, 01028 Attention: Mrs. Beth Chase, Pastoral Minister.

Since the pandemic, the Longmeadow Food Pantry located at the Longmeadow Adult Center has been closed to the public. They are only running their pantry on Fridays instead of Tuesdays and Fridays.

“We’ve definitely had an uptick of people that have needed our services,” said Jim Leyden, the director of the Longmeadow Council on Aging and Adult Center. The food pantry is an extension of their department. “We have been offering our services one day a week on Fridays. It’s a drive-up service now where people have appointments to come to the adult center and then they are given a bag of groceries and produce, fruit, frozen meat and other items.”

The pantry could use canned goods, tuna, cereal, peanut butter and jelly, rice, and pasta. Individualized juice boxes, instant oatmeal, canned fruit and cans of mixed vegetables.

“All of those things are really important for us to make our bags when we distribute those to the community,” Leyden added. “Our plan is to continue to keep going. I think we’ve been very successful. I’m very happy with how the community has responded to our service and we’re going to continue to do the same thing that we have been doing each week just to make sure that the needs are met.”

For food donations, residents can leave it outside of the pantry’s main entrance and staff members will make sure it will get into the building. They also can call 565-4150 so  they can arrange to meet one of the staff outside to give the donation.

A monetary donation can be made out to the town of Longmeadow and in the memo, it can be for the food pantry at 231 Maple Rd., Longmeadow, MA 01106.

The Evangel Food Pantry in Wilbraham is a part of the Evangel Assembly of God, located at 348 Stony Hill Rd., and is partnered with the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts. The food pantry started in 1999, but at that point it was not connected with the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, as they had to operate and show a track record of serving the community before they could become a part of their network. The church buys food there at a very low cost so they can give it away for free.

“There have been some shortages on their end with meat for example,” said Outreach Pastor Lori Canaday. “In that respect, sometimes it’s hard to get particular items, but we’ve certainly have had enough food for clients when they come through and they’re not going away hungry.”

People that come to the pantry have to sign paperwork the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts requires. Then they receive a ticket and drive their car down the church’s driveway where volunteers will load their groceries into their car.

“We’ve definitely seen an increase in clients,” Canaday said. “We’ve had to make adjustments to some of our procedures to follow COVID-19 safety procedures, but we’ve made all of those adjustments and we’ve been able to keep up with our regular hours. Overall, it’s been pretty good. Our volunteers really stepped up and have done an awesome job of keeping everything running smoothly.”

The adjustments they made that Canaday mentioned is more on the check-in procedure. During the warmer weather, they went out to peoples’ cars rather than having them come into the building. With the colder weather here, the church is either going to continue doing that or they have to limit the number of people that come in at a time.

The Evangel Food Pantry is currently looking for local grocers to partner with them by donating meat and produce. For monetary donations, a check to Evangel Assembly can be sent, and in the memo the sender should write “Food Pantry.” Canaday said the better option is for them to make monetary donations that they can purchase food from the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts. Residents can also go to their website  click on “giving” to where they can choose to give to the food pantry.

“In the meantime, our plan is to continue to be a steady and consistent force for people when they need it,” Canaday replied. “We plan to have more food on hand for the holidays, as much as we our storage capacity will allow.”

The Hampden Senior Center Food Pantry has been running for more than 15 years. Due to the coronavirus, the Senior Center building has been closed. Outreach Coordinator Wendy Cowles said, “Before, people were able to come in and go into our food pantry to pick out a bag or a box full of items. Now, they can call and we let them know what we have in the pantry. We pack it up for them and bring it outside because no one can come into the building.”

Cowles continued, “What we do which is probably more beneficial to the local residents is we do a Brown Bag program where we get food pantry items from the Food Bank in Hatfield. They deliver it to us at the senior center in bulks. Then we pack up bags for people that have applied for the program.”

The Brown Bag program occurs once a month on the third Tuesday. Currently, the Hampden Senior Center has about 108 bags they put together each month. Almost half of those bags are delivered to people in East Longmeadow and Hampden who are unable to pick up their own bags.

“We do have a good amount of items in our pantry. We have a lot of people that have been very generous to donate things,” Cowles told Reminder Publishing. “I think right now, we’re actually okay because we get a monthly brown bag from the Food Bank. That is what we use to give to people that have sign up. The food pantry is our back-up if people don’t get brown bags or if they want to sign up for brown bags, but they need something right away we pull together a bag of groceries for them.”

The center has recently expanded their food pantry to include personal care items: soap, shampoo, body wash, deodorant, toilet paper and facial tissue. “We are also a SNAP satellite office,” Cowles mentioned. “Anyone can call here and we can help them apply for SNAP, re-certify or help to manage their SNAP account.”

The center will be doing a Christmas dinner that people can come and pick up on Dec. 24 at 1 p.m., which Cowles stresses members of the public have to sign up in advance for it if this is something they're interested in.

“We’re still going to continue. If people need food, they can call us and come pick it up. I’m happy to deliver food to them,” replied Cowles. “We do have lunch available on Tuesdays through Fridays. They do have to call in advance. It’s free, it’s a suggested donation of $2, but you do not need to pay. It’s a great way to supplement if you’re looking for a meal. Again it’s something you have to sign up for. With the food pantry just call us and we will get you the food or if you can’t come in, we'll get it to you.”

For those interested in the food pantry, applying for programs or making a food donation, contact the Hampden Senior Center at 566-5588.

The Hampden Senior Center is located at 104 Allen St. in Hampden.

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