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September 27, 2021
 
Two Western Mass. Nonprofits Team to Fight Regional Hunger

August 26, 2021 — Two nonprofit organizations in western Massachusetts this week announced they have joined forces to fight hunger in the region, which, like in the rest of the state, has become more prevalent during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Jewish Federation of Western Massachusetts, based in Springfield, through Rachel’s Table (RT), its food rescue and redistribution program, will provide 200 volunteer driver to help The Food Bank Of Western Massachusetts (FBWM), based in Hatfield, transport food directly from designated grocery stores to the FBWM agencies.

The effort will help fill the gap where agencies lacked transportation or when its volunteers were needed elsewhere, FBWM said.

“We are thrilled to partner with the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts to help deliver food to agencies, especially for those who need our transportation,” said Jodi Falk, Director of Rachel’s Table.

“Transporting healthy food to people instead of it going into landfill is what we have been doing for almost 30 years and being able to use our operations to better serve our neighbors in the Pioneer Valley is a win for everyone. It is the epitome of partnership to fill gaps and support each other’s good work.”

RT's partnership with FBWM began pre-pandemic in Westfield and has become revitalized during the past several months. Together, the entities serve seven agencies, with 13 volunteer drivers that rescue nutritious food from eight donors in Hampden, Hampshire, and Franklin Counties.

Food insecurity in Massachusetts doubled during the pandemic, according Project Bread, a Boston-based nonprofit that provides food assistance for hungry families across the state.

“Prior to the pandemic, household food insecurity in Massachusetts was at 8.2%. The coronavirus pandemic fueled a hunger crisis unlike any other in our lifetime, at it's peak rendering 19.6% of households food insecure,” Project Bread recently reported.

RT and FBWM have delivered more than 15,000 pounds of healthy meat, produce, and dairy since they launched their partnership.

"Our teams (RT and FBWM) met together, it was clear that our services were complementary, and working together, we would positively impact the communities we serve.” said Shirley DelRio, FBWM’s director of food operations.

Currently using volunteer cars, RT drivers are servsafe-trained and use freezer blankets and infrared thermometers to ensure food deliveries remain safe.

A $7,000 grant from the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts supported the initiative by funding the purchase of 100 blankets and thermometers.

Founded in 1992, RT works to alleviate hunger and reduce the waste of food resources in the Pioneer Valley. Six days a week, more than 200 volunteers collect food from over 60 donors, including local supermarkets, restaurants, caterers, farms, and bakeries, and deliver it to more than 50 agencies, such as soup kitchens, food pantries, and shelters in the Pioneer Valley.

Since 1982, FBWM, which now leads the region’s emergency food network, has been providing individuals facing hunger with food and working to help communities develop long-term solutions to the underlying causes of food insecurity.

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