posted on November 24, 2016 11:17
By Cynthia McCormick
Updated Nov 24, 2016 at 10:37 AM
HYANNIS — The Family Pantry of Cape Cod in Harwich distributed a record 537 turkey dinners this week as part of a program to make sure families in need aren’t left out of Thanksgiving celebrations.
It’s “the highest number we have packed to date,” Family Pantry of Cape Cod Executive Director Christine Menard said.
The generosity of donors — including the Wayside Inn in Chatham — “is huge,” Menard said during a meeting Tuesday of the Community Network of Cape Cod.
But pantry programs that distribute free food to people in the community are no longer just for emergencies or holidays, Menard said.
Food for Kids, a summer meals program run out of the Church of the Holy Spirit in Orleans, serves children in towns such as Chatham, where people don't necessarily think there is poverty, according to the Rev. Anne Koehler, a director for the program.
There are hidden pockets of poverty, Koehler said.
The Cape Organization for Rights of the Disabled plans to operate a mobile food pantry for people with disabilities, said Coreen Brinckerhoff, the organization's executive director.
CORD didn't get grant money for the program but the organization plans to pay for it, show the community that it works and then get grant money for a second van, Brinckerhoff said.
People use the Harwich pantry’s services so they can afford to live and work on Cape Cod, Menard said.
“We are not an emergency pantry,” she said.
More than 9,000 people used the pantry last year, and “better than 60 percent our clients have one if not two” members of their family in the workforce, Menard said.
Many visitors might not guess how cash-strapped the Cape’s working families are, but they don’t realize how much it costs to live here, she said.
Advocates for low-income people on the Cape estimate a person needs to make $23 an hour to live on Cape Cod — but few people earn that much, Menard said.
Federal poverty guidelines say a single person making more than $22,000 a year is not poor, but that is not a realistic income for the Cape, Menard said.
With high housing prices and heating bills to pay in the winter, many Cape families count on food pantry programs to balance their budget, she said.
“We are the pantry that kind of helps make it possible to stay on the Cape.”
The Family Pantry of Cape Cod continues to expand its programs, re-launching a pantry at Cape Cod Community College in West Barnstable and bringing mobile food pantries to the Chatham and Brewster councils on aging this fall.
At the end of January, Provincetown will be on the mobile pantry route, followed by Eastham, Menard said. Officials from Dennis and Orleans also have expressed interest in bringing “Healthy Meals in Motion” to their councils on aging, she said.
“We’re doing it very slowly and carefully,” Menard told the representatives of nonprofit agencies who gathered for Tuesday's meeting