August 3, 2018

Grant Provides Fresh Summer Produce for Easthampton Seniors

August 3, 2018

Cooley Dickinson Grant Helps Provide Fresh Summer Produce for Easthampton Seniors in Need

Robin Bialecki is the executive director of the Easthampton Community Center, a hub of multiple community-based activities and also a resource for low-income individuals and families who make use of its food pantry.

In July, the ECC received a Cooley Dickinson Community Grant of $2,000 to include fresh fruit and vegetables in its summer lunch program for seniors, and Bialecki is ecstatic to be able to also add the healthy items to a seniors’ brown-bag (pick-up) program that’s co-administered by the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, available the first Tuesday of every month.

The Easthampton Community Center’s food pantry and associated food distribution programs provide food for 3,600 people every month. The Center already receives similar grants from Cooley Dickinson that pay for adding the fresh produce to children’s summer lunches, which go a long way toward filling the hole where school lunches provide a nutritious meal to low-income kids during the school year. That program has been running for years now, and the Center’s share at Easthampton’s Mountainview Farm CSA is even matched by the farm in its own manner of donation. ECC also receives aid from Grow Food Northampton, and regularly partners with the United Way and the Food Bank of Western Mass. to provide food monthly to those in need.

Factoring seniors into the fresh produce effort helps offset the ever-growing cost of living for older people in the community, who may be living on fixed incomes and often tend to understate their own actual need. It also adds a resource for the ongoing support of addressing seniors’ nutritional needs in a simple, easy way for them to access on a regular basis.

“I had one woman say to me that she could afford her food bill if she only took half of her medicine,” recalls Bialecki. “I asked her, ‘what is the medicine for?’ and she said ‘high blood pressure.’ ‘Oh, no, no, no,’ I said, you can’t do that.”

The Easthampton Community Center food pantry is located at 12 Clark Street in Easthampton, and is open weekdays from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm.

In addition to food assistance, it has a clothing closet and provides space for community group meetings and holiday/celebratory gatherings. The Center is one of many community partner organizations which are supported by Cooley Dickinson community grants.

Project funding is determined through community health assessment results; for more information on assessments, community needs and Cooley Dickinson community partners, visit www.cooleydickinson.org/communityhealth.