South Shore volunteers work to feed hungry New Englanders

PEMBROKE, Mass. — They say it takes a village. A village of volunteers is changing people’s lives one bag at a time inside a Pembroke warehouse.

“On the first day of spring 2020, we had two families. We now have 935 families that want to do this,” said Matthew Martin, who runs End Hunger New England.

Volunteers at the nonprofit package low-cost meals that are donated to food pantries, homeless shelters and other organizations that feed the hungry. They serve all 67 counties in New England.

Last year they fed more than 4 million people. Many of the volunteers are retirees or students, including a lot of home-schooled students, like Ella Sharp.

“I know it’s helping a lot of people and its really fun to come and do different jobs and meet people,” she said.

Each day volunteers, working on an assembly line, pack 10 different types of nutritious meals. Each bag feeds six people.

“It’s basically protein flavoring, vitamins and minerals and something that expands. Pasta, rice or oatmeal to make it a huge meal,” Martin said.

Volunteers pack, on average, about 75,000 meals per week. And the need is great.

Right before the pandemic, Martin said New England saw a 20-year low of hunger of about 1.4 million people. During Covid-19, that number skyrocketed to 2.1 million, the most ever. He said it’s now at 1.7 million.

“A lot of the people who had never been hungry before were in need. A lot of people that didn’t even know hungry people were around were becoming aware of it,” he said.

End Hunger New England relies solely on volunteers and donations. The more donations, the more food they can package and distribute. Each meal costs 30 cents. So for $1.80 you can feed six people. If you’d like to donate to End Hunger New England, click here.

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