By: Kane Peaslee
Merrimack Valley Food Bank is a 501c-3 Regional Food Distribution Center in Lowell, Massachusetts that provides nutritious food and freedom from hunger to the low income, homeless and the hungry. The MVFB distributes food to many of the local food pantrys, senior citizen complexes, shelters, school department, and group homes in the surrounding communities including Lowell, Lawrence, Haverhill, Newburyport, and Westford to name a few.
Kane learned through his interview with Assistant Director Deborah Callery that the Merrimack Valley Food Bank typically serves 85,000 individuals or families each month. Wow, this figure blew Kane’s mind. Kane thought Deborah, her coworkers, and volunteers must be very proud of themselves for doing such important community work. Kane and his siblings were born into an environment with limited resources before being rescued. His hope is that other beings did not have to worry about hunger. He was sad to learn that many of the people that suffer from food insecurity are seniors, children, and disabled people. Many have limited resources and resources to become financially independent.
Kane was fascinated to learn how the Merrimack Valley Food Bank serves so many families. Kane thought wow Deborah was very patient with him as he listened and asked questions about how this magic happens, but I guess Kane thought there isn’t a magic wand, there is networking with community members and agencies, grant management, assessing the needs of the community and hard consistent work. Deborah stated, “everything we do is about building and maintaining relationships. She described her relationship with local grocery stores that regularly donate surplus pallets and relationships with individual truck drivers, who go out of their way to donate surplus goods. I guess Deborah, her staff, and volunteers must be very flexible as their schedules may be forever changing. That sure sounds hard to Kane since he likes to go to bed and eat at the same time every day.
The Merrimack Valley Food Bank also has a mobile unit that provides food directly to individuals and families delivered by volunteers. Through Operation Nourish volunteers deliver meals to identified children with nutritional needs for the day and weekend. Local middle schools in Lowell and students at the Greater Lowell and Lawrence Technical High School are examples of a regular stop. During the summer children have the opportunity to continue to receive food supplements when school is not in session. Kane thought about how awful it would be to be hungry and paused to think how important the MVFB is to the Region.
The mobile unit also makes stops at the homes of elderly and disabled individuals. The Merrimack Valley Food Bank works collaboratively with Elder Services and administrators at the schools to identify specific children and elderly with nutritional needs. During the COVID-19 pandemic the Mobile Pantry has made emergency deliveries to people in quarantine without the resources to purchase food. As part of relationship building, the same volunteer tries to deliver monthly to the same client to build a relationship and level of comfort to the person in need.
Kane asked Deborah where the food and funding came from to fill the Distribution Center. Debra explained that the food is received from the Federal and State Emergency food programs, and donations by local farmers, food retailers, manufacturers, and neighborhood and local food drives. The MVFB distributes these food supplies to over 100 member agencies within 30 communities. The Merrimack Valley Food Bank was also a winner of funding from the Cummings Property Foundation.
If you would like to support the Merrimack Valley Food Bank please consider donating financially directly on the website, coordinate a food drive, drop off donations during the hours of 8:00 and 3:00 or join the team at the annual fundraiser, “A Big Night Out” on 06/09/2022 at Lenzi’s in Dracut.
Tickets are available on the Merrimack Valley Food Bank website. Kane thought for all the pain and suffering in the world, he was happy to learn about people like Deborah Callery and her coworkers at the Merrimack Valley Food Bank who directly provide resources to people for the most fundamental need of food. It was a pleasure to meet you.
Columnist, The Valley Patriot