But the town staff and volunteers who run the Bedford Food Bank are already thinking about Thanksgiving.
That’s because of projected demand, explained Carla Olson, who oversees the food program as Healthy Bedford coordinator in the town Department of Youth and Family Services.
Olson said the food bank serves about 140 households each week, but the clientele is not identical week by week. Thus, the food bank provided Thanksgiving packages to 175 households in 2021, and Olson said “I think this fall is going to be substantially more,” perhaps as many as 50 more.
“We don’t have storage for all those products,” Olson said.
Some help has arrived—a large freezer, with a new refrigerator on the way. The appliances cost thousands of dollars, half provided by a grant from the Greater Boston Food Bank, the Bedford program’s major source of food.
The balance came from state funds; Health and Human Services Director Heidi Porter said State Rep. Ken Gordon guided the allocation, which also includes shelving and office equipment. The town is also seeking a half-time food bank assistant, also to be funded from outside sources.
One new feature this summer is a weekly bag of lunch options, aimed at children who are eligible for free and reduced-price meals in schools. The state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education continues the program through the summer, but the closest source for Bedford recipients is Waltham.
So the food bank provides a range of lunch options locally that are easily accessible—peanut butter and jelly, apples and oranges, juice, milk, crackers, raisins, and yogurt. “Obviously this isn’t enough for a whole week, but it’s a little extra help,” Olsen said. They’re offered to food bank clients, and Olsen said the demand is about 25 bags each week.
(Lunch was free for most public school students as the Department of Agriculture’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Federal funding has not been extended for 2022-23.)
Olson said the total food bank package is about 35 pounds per household – “nutrient-dense food; protein, dairy, bread, cereal, yogurt.”
For the individuals and families who take advantage, “the idea is not to show up with nothing in your cupboard. We provide nutritious food so they can pay rent or electric or other bills.” Based on special arrangements for pickup or delivery, Olson said, many – perhaps most — food bank recipients are working. Virtually all reside in Bedford, she added.
Finances in support of the food bank are handled by the Bedford Community Table/Pantry, which is a nonprofit, charitable 501(c)(3) organization.
Mike Rosenberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 781-983-1763