Demand is on the rise at the Bedford Food Bank

The Bedford Food Bank supplied Thanksgiving provisions to 205 households last week, an increase of more than 28 percent from a year earlier.

Carla Olson, who oversees the program as Healthy Communities director for the town’s Department of Health and Human Services, wasn’t surprised.

“Our weekly numbers are up to 150, 160,” Olson reported. “But some don’t come every week. I knew there would be more for Thanksgiving.” 

The demand represented as many as 500 people, she noted.

The food bank was ready, Olson said, thanks to support from the Greater Boston Food Bank and other sources of food, plus a network of some 50 volunteers. Some of them, such as the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), which handles deliveries and traffic management, have stepped up weekly for more than two-and-a-half years.

“The community has really embraced this program and I am grateful,” Olson said. “We couldn’t do it without the volunteers. They have been so generous with their time and dedication.”

Olson said the best way for residents to support the food bank is through monetary donations to its nonprofit financial partner, the Bedford Food Pantry. (https://www.bedfordfoodpantry.org/content/donate).

The food bank doesn’t accept canned goods or similar non-perishable food products because “we don’t have the space. With the volume that we’re doing now, we really need storage space for everybody.”

Not only do the products take a lot of shelf space, but small random food donations require sorting and verification of expiration dates, Olson pointed out. 

“It ends up being a lot of physical management that we just don’t have staffing for.” Currently, she said, Marie Walton works part time as pantry assistant, “overseeing a lot of our delivery coordination and day-to-day inventory.”

Deliveries from the Greater Boston Food Bank are already sorted, and are either free or at a very low cost, Olson continued. “We get 70 to 75 percent of our product from them.” 

She added that she will work with community groups “if people want to do a drive for a certain product.”

Olson noted that when she began managing the town food bank less than three years ago, the weekly demand was about 60 households. The demand “on operations like ours, plus other organizations, is growing, and it’s not predicted to slow down.”

“We have a whole variety of people coming for different reasons,” Olson said. Some clients are navigating temporary setbacks, she said; others are on fixed incomes that don’t meet their needs. About a third of the consumers are 65 and older, she said.

One frequent explanation is increasing prices. “Everything is more expensive,” she said, and “people are being forced to make difficult choices.”


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Ginni Spencer
2 months ago

It is wonderful and impressive to hear about all that the Bedford Food Pantry is doing. The volunteer commitment is outstanding and inspiring. Thank you to everyone who participates in this important work.

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