Food pantries serving more families and delivering more food amid COVID-19 pandemic -- but concern is also growing

MANSFIELD, Mass. — A couple of weeks ago the Mansfield Food Pantry went to a drive-thru system to deliver food and have undergone the social distancing that’s needed. Their numbers of people who keep coming continue to rise.

“At the end of last year, we were serving 90-100 families each week,” said Kimberly Hoy, a volunteer. “And last week we served 130 families.”

Hoy and her volunteers are busy as ever at their temporary location next to the 180-year old Congregational Church of Mansfield. Donations are up, which has helped spur the biggest order they’ve ever made with the Greater Boston Food Bank.

Dick Kelsay has been with the pantry for 22 years and is shaken up by the growing need for its food.

“A lot of these people are now unemployed,” Kelsay said. “It’s a scary time for these people.”

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Speaking of time, the historic church next door played a role in the last pandemic, in 1918, volunteers say.

“This church, the downstairs part was a hospital and they had tents over behind the passage,” Kelsay said. “Today, 102 years later, the next epidemic, the whole downstairs part of the church down there we're using for storage.”

Elsewhere, the Merrimack Valley Food Bank has been delivering dozens more meals to doorsteps with their mobile food van. At Worcester County’s food bank, numbers are also up.

“We compared our food distribution from March of 2019 to March of 2020 and we’ve distributed 31% more food,” said Jean McMurray of the Worcester County Food Bank. “From about a half a million pounds of food to 750,000 pounds of food.”

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Volunteers at the Mansfield Food Pantry say there is a good supply of food right now and no shortage for them at the pantry. But they are concerned in the weeks ahead about getting some items like meat and eggs. And they think they are going to have to keep going with this pantry at least through May.