Porter said the number of households served is about 160; a year ago the number was 90, and the program began in 2020 with 30 participants.
The food bank is relying more on Health and Human Services staff, including the social workers, board member Bea Brunkhorst noted.
“We rely heavily on volunteer hours, but like many things, volunteers have other things to do,” said Porter. “As they acclimate back to other things in their lives, it hurts the volunteer based and we are relying more on staff.”
Member Anita Raj expressed concern that this kind of turnover is taking up social workers’ time. She also pointed out that the department still has a vacant youth social worker position.
“It’s not that social workers wouldn’t be involved with the food bank at some level,” Porter pointed out. “This is a service line of the town.”
According to the director, the department’s two social workers are doing some deliveries for the food bank, “which also serves as an opportunity to connect with homebound folks. The food bank is a great conduit to identify the need for other social services.”
There are about 40 home deliveries to people unable to pick up at the weekly distribution, Porter said. There are also about a dozen deliveries to residents of the apartments at the VA Hospital campus, handled by the veterans’ agent.
Carla Olson, Healthy Bedford director and supervisor of the food bank, noted in an email this week that volunteers don’t just show up; they need to be screened and trained. And that also takes staff time; “even just responding to the inquiries is a big job.”
Brunkhorst pointed out that development of the food bank is a Select Board goal for the current year, and “perhaps some money can be put toward these services.”
Porter said she is looking forward to discussing with the Select Board to better define the parameters of the goal. “My conversations with the Town Manager will help formulate what the plan is.”