MARION — Town Administrator James McGrail and Council on Aging (COA) Director Karen Gregory are pleased to share that the Marion Select Board has approved plans to pilot a food pantry for Marion residents.
The town is proposing to host the pantry at the Benjamin D. Cushing Community Center beginning in January 2022. The town hopes to open the pantry for a few hours on one weekday, one evening and one weekend day each week to help accommodate residents’ varying schedules.
Families will be able to visit the pantry once per week and home deliveries will be offered to homebound residents through use of the COA vans.
The pilot program will begin by offering non-perishable food items. The items will be set up in the Community Center’s conference room in a grocery store style where residents will be able to select the items they need from the shelves.
The town is currently looking into food supply options, including a possible partnership with the Gleason YMCA Full Plate Program, which receives food from the Greater Boston Food Bank and other organizations, as well as private donations.
The pantry will be funded through a Gleason YMCA grant, the COA donation account and private donations. It will be administered by Director Gregory and supported by volunteers.
If the pilot program is successful, future plans could include expanding to Mattapoisett and Rochester, adding perishable food offerings (contingent on storage availability) and working with additional food suppliers.
“Food security and nutrition is an important matter for the COA and one of the ways in which we aim to enhance the quality of life of community members,” Director Gregory said. “Based on interest and turnout from past initiatives such as food drives and other meal program offerings, we believe this food pantry will be an important addition to our community and will benefit many families.”
The poverty level in Marion is 4% and rises to 7% among seniors. Currently, there are 805 Marion residents enrolled in MassHealth (as of 2016), however only 362 residents receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)/Food Stamp benefits. This 45% gap between residents receiving MassHealth and those receiving SNAP benefits is a key indicator of need in the community. Additional information regarding SNAP benefits, including eligibility and application information can be found here.
Furthermore, 20-30 students in Marion receive food weekly during the school year through various programs. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Marion’s food distribution program averaged 44 cars per day serving an average of 99 people. According to data from the end of November, the Gleason YMCA in Wareham distributed 331 boxes of pre-selected food items which served 662 people, 279 of which were seniors.
During the coming weeks, Director Gregory will continue to work with the food pantry’s steering group — Nancy McFadden, Nancy Moore, Paul Naiman, Eric Pierce and COA Outreach Coordinator Gloria Solano — to finalize plans around food supply, logistics, staffing and program administration.
“Director Gregory and her steering group have done an excellent job planning for this initiative and looking into various food supply and funding sources,” Town Administrator McGrail said. “We are looking forward to launching this needed resource for residents, especially as our community continues to deal with the impacts of the pandemic.”
An official opening date for the pantry will be shared with community members once confirmed.