It is hard to believe that there is a hunger problem on this beautiful peninsula where we live, but when you think of the employment opportunities and compare them to the cost of living it is easy to see that there is a disconnect. This problem is not unique to Cape Cod. A recent article in The Greater Boston Food Bank's Harvest newsletter discussed a Feeding America landmark study that showed how many families in eastern Massachusetts are going without regular meals. The meal gap is huge, and what is most significant is that 47% of people in need are not able to receive government benefits such as food stamps (now called SNAP benefits). The reason for this is that their household incomes are above the federal poverty level. "From our numbers, it's clear that hunger has permeated the middle class. The concept of hunger is no longer synonymous with poverty," said Catherine D'Amato, President and CEO of The Greater Boston Food Bank.
The Family Pantry of Cape Cod is committed to helping to provide some of those extra meals to people who need them. In 1989 when the founding fathers created The Family Pantry of Cape Cod, they were guided by a few principles that we still hold true to today. One such principle is that we are open to anyone who needs our help. There are many pantries on the Cape that are specific to a certain Town or a few Towns. We are the largest pantry on Cape Cod that is open to anyone in need. A second principle was that we would always choose to err on the side of generosity.
One of the statistics that often takes people by surprise is that approximately 2/3 of the clients who come to us for food have at least one person in the household who is working and in many cases there are two people working. They just don't make quite enough to cover the cost of living here. In 2012 we provided food to 3,545 unique (meaning each household is only counted once despite the number of visits made to the pantry) households. Those households included 9,292 people and 3,416 of them were children. This is a 7% increase over 2011 and a 69% increase over a few years ago when we served 2,155 households and 5,500 people. So hunger is not going away and we are doing our part to help.
The Family Pantry of Cape Cod works to not only provide people with food but also to make sure that we primarily stock nutritious food items. We are fortunate to be a member agency of The Greater Boston Food Bank whose Nutrition department recommended food products for us to stock on our shelves when we opened and we have continued to focus on those as well as additional nutritious items. The Food Bank also rates the nutritional component of its products so that we are able to choose wisely when selecting food from them.
Recent studies have shown a link between poverty, obesity and pre-diabetic health issues. One of the factors in this difficult issue is that the more nutritious foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables are more expensive than some of the convenience food items. In 2011 we built a production garden in back of the Pantry and are now able to provide fresh vegetables and fruits to our clients. In the off-season we use money from a grant to purchase vegetables.