The Weymouth Food Pantry is expanding its warehouse and starting a South Shore Food Bank, which will provide food storage space to pantries in 18 other South Shore communities.
The food will come primarily from the Greater Boston Food Bank in Boston and be available to the South Shore communities weekly, according to Weymouth Food Pantry executive director Pam Denholm. New freezers and refrigerators at the expanded warehouse, which is in Rockland near the Route 3 exit, will supply more fresh and frozen food than local pantries currently provide, she said.
The member communities are Abington, Braintree, Bridgewater, Cohasset, Duxbury, Halifax, Hanover, Hanson, Hingham, Holbrook, Hull, Kingston, Marshfield, Norwell, Pembroke, Rockland, Scituate, Weymouth, and Whitman, Denholm said.
Denholm said that many of the other pantries don’t have enough freezer or refrigeration space to stock up on non-canned foods from the Greater Boston Food Bank, and the Greater Boston Food Bank doesn’t have enough loading docks for the approximately 600 pantries it serves to come frequently enough to maintain steady supplies of fresh and frozen food for their clients.
The creation of the South Shore Food Bank frees up loading dock space at the Boston warehouse and saves South Shore food pantries the chore of driving into Boston, as well as allowing more frequent pickups.
“There is just no downside,” Denholm said. “Everybody wins.”
She said the South Shore Food Bank also will be able to take advantage of other opportunities.
For example, her pantry recently received a phone call from a trucker who had nine pallets of cauliflower and broccoli that had been turned away by a vendor and was going to be dumped if he couldn’t find someone to take it. Because of its increased space, the Weymouth Food Pantry was able to take the entire load and share it, Denholm said. She said her agency was now on a “truckers’ call list.”
“We haven’t fully explored all the opportunities, but we are wicked excited about how we can improve the safety net for food insecurity on the South Shore,” she said.
According to a press release, pantries in Greater Boston have reported a 113 percent increase in clients since the COVID-19 pandemic began. In Weymouth, nearly 600 households used the food pantry for the first time in 2020 – a 120 percent increase over 2019.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts donated $70,000 toward the South Shore Food Bank project, and the state gave a $50,000 grant.
“COVID-19 underscored the importance of working together to make sure our neighbors have the healthy food they need to feed their families,” Jonathan Tetrault, vice president of community impact at the Greater Boston Food Bank, said in a statement. “Weymouth Food Pantry is demonstrating how this can be done by thinking regionally and opening their new facility as a shared delivery site that will not only improve the efficiency of GFB’s network on the South Shore, but also help ensure that fresh, health food will be more readily available to food pantries in the surrounding towns.”
The warehouse work – an addition of 4,000 square feet – increases its storage capacity by 45 percent, and includes a 50 percent increase in freezer and refrigeration space, according to the press release. The new storage capacity is enough to hold an estimated 160,000 pounds of perishable and non-perishable food, the release said.
The Weymouth Food Pantry distributes free groceries at three weekly pop-up pantries at churches in town, and delivers food to home-bound elders and people with disabilities. The pantry also provides backpacks of food on weekends to students in elementary and middle school, as well as holiday meals to the community at large.
Johanna Seltz can be reached at [email protected].