In an average week, Loaves & Fishes Food Pantry in Devens distributes 11,500 lbs of food to neighbors in need. In 2017, over 600,000 lbs of food was given to families in Ayer, Devens, Groton, Harvard, Littleton or Shirley, regardless of income.
It takes a lot of food to meet the needs of the more than 800 families who visit the Food Pantry each year.
Thankfully, most people reading this have never had the need to visit a Food Pantry. Some may have donated food or money or other items to help those less fortunate. Atmosphere Salon, in keeping with its 15 and Giving Back Celebration this year, is sponsoring a food drive for Loaves & Fishes Food Pantry.
In 1983, the first year Loaves & Fishes operated as an “emergency” assistance program and provided food to about 50 households with a budget of just $6,500. Soon the program expanded and now provides families who are struggling the opportunity to shop up to twice a month for groceries. More than 350 volunteers help the over 800 client families in the Loaves & Fishes service area.
“Giving Back is easy,” says Atmosphere Salon owner, Wendy Hopkins. “During the month of February, we are sponsoring a food collection for Loaves & Fishes. Bring in a grocery bag of non-perishables or canned goods and you will receive an exclusive offer for a half-price Davines product with the purchase of another of equal or greater value. (This is an excellent opportunity to try our fabulous Italian Davines hair products. You’ll be amazed at the results … no matter what product you select!)
“Giving Back is easy,” says Atmosphere Salon owner, Wendy Hopkins. “During the month of February, we are sponsoring a food collection for Loaves & Fishes.”
“The Food Pantry accepts ‘shelf stable’ foods that are in their original packaging, labeled and unopened,” explained Patricia Stern, Executive Director of Loaves & Fishes.
In addition, personal care products, such as soap, shampoo, conditioner, toothbrushes and toothpaste, feminine care products and diapers are welcomed. Household products like toilet paper, paper towels, tissues, napkins, laundry detergent, dish soap, cleaners, and storage bags are also always desired.
Unfortunately, homemade goods, dietary supplements/vitamins, medicines or any item that contains alcohol cannot be accepted.
Loaves & Fishes also accepts monetary donations, as well as volunteer time.
“Our volunteers are referred to as Partners in Hope,” explained Stern. “There are many opportunities to volunteer, including group volunteering which builds teams, morale and organizational culture. Anyone over the age of 18 can volunteer during activities that include direct client contact. Teens between 16 and 18 can volunteer without adult supervision during non-client events. Even those under 16 can volunteer with adult supervision during non-client events. We encourage those who think they’d like to volunteer to email our Volunteer Coordinator or call 978-772-4627 x 3107.” email@example.com
“I am so pleased that Wendy is featuring Loaves & Fishes Food Pantry as part of her 15 and Giving Back anniversary celebration, Patricia said. “She is so excited to share her anniversary with the community and we are excited for her.”
Wendy Hopkins commented, “At Atmosphere Salon, we know how important supporting Loaves & Fishes is, especially during the ‘lean months’ after the holidays when the shelves are not at their fullest.”
“Atmosphere Salon and Loaves & Fishes are well acquainted, as Wendy Hopkins and her staff have assisted the Food Pantry with food donations, monetary support, and group volunteering over the years. We value their support and their friendship,” said Patricia.
During February, stop by Atmosphere Salon with a grocery bag filled for Loaves & Fishes and you’ll receive an exclusive offer for a half-price Davines product with the purchase of another of equal or greater value. No appointment is necessary. Just visit the salon and drop off your donation to Loaves & Fishes. Everyone is a winner!
What does the future hold for Loaves & Fishes? Patricia Stern reports that the next three to four years will be very exciting. “Last year for the first time in 35 years, we underwent a strategic planning effort. We held focus groups, did individual interviews with members of our community, and completed an online survey. We researched our demographics and reviewed Federal census data. We looked at statistics across the country and locally about hunger, food, and security. Our Board of Directors made the tough decision to refocus our mission to center around providing nutritious food. While we have always done this, we learned that in our service area, there are between 2,000 and 3,000 families living at or below the poverty level of $25,000 income for a family of four. This means that we are only reaching about one-third of those living at that level. We needed to make changes to be able to reach the other two-thirds of families that are food insecure,” she explained.
Beginning this year, Loaves & Fishes will embark on an interior construction project to reconfigure the interior space of the building to create a more convenient, safer, and efficient shopping experience for their clients. The space will include distinct areas for receiving, inventory, and aisles for shopping, just like a grocery store.
In addition, there will be an exterior walk-in cooler/freezer unit that will be accessible from inside to allow Loaves & Fishes to accept and store eggs, diary, and fresh and frozen meats.
“Our plans are big and we are grateful for the support we get from our communities. Every bit helps,” stated Stern. “I remember back almost ten years ago, when I first started at Loaves & Fishes … I was giving a tour to a group of boy scouts, explaining what we do here and why it is so important and that every penny helps us to help those less fortunate. I noticed one boy fidgeting with something in his pocket. He pulled his hand out and handed me a quarter. He said, ‘Here Mrs. Stern. This is for Loaves & Fishes.’ I still have that quarter. I have it with me always. It is a constant reminder that what we do here is vitally important.