Framingham’s Pearl Street Cupboard and Café food pantry has stayed open two hours past closing time in recent weeks, just to serve the people waiting in line.
“We’re giving out a ridiculous amount of food,” United Way of Tri-County President and CEO Paul Mina said.
The organization oversees three places that offer food to those in need – the Framingham pantry, Marlborough Community Cupboard and WHEAT Community Cupboard in Clinton.
The trio served thousands of people tens of thousands of pounds of food last month, with 251 new families at the Framingham location alone.
A month into extensive school and business closures forced by the coronavirus pandemic, food pantries throughout Greater Milford and MetroWest are seeing floods of new clients.
A lack of food hasn’t yet been a problem, and local pantry leaders said this week that they don’t think it will become one. Some credited the Greater Boston Food Bank and the Worcester County Food Bank with keeping the supply coming.
What local pantries need, leaders said, is money and volunteers.
Monetary donations give pantries the flexibility to fill the gaps in what they have, and minimize person-to-person contact. Many pantries offer ways to give on their websites.
Pantries are adjusting their operations, both to keep up with the rush of new clients and to stay healthy during the pandemic. That means longer hours for staff and volunteers, more delivery over pick-up, and pre-bagging meals that clients would otherwise be able to pick out themselves.
“It’s a very difficult time, but people are getting help, and we’re very, very fortunate that our staff and our volunteer team is healthy and they’ve done a great job,” Mina said, but “They’re exhausted.”
The team knows its work is important, Mina said, but he’s worried about stress, as hardships caused by the coronavirus pandemic stretch on. He could use volunteers willing to work days.
The pandemic claimed 137 lives as reported in Massachusetts on Thursday, bringing the total number of people who have died to 1,245 statewide. This is the third day in a row that the number of reported deaths is over 100.
There were 2,263 new cases reported on Thursday for a total of 32,181 cases of COVID-19.
“If this goes on much longer, who knows?” he said. “Some people have breaking points. We’re all working on adrenaline right now.”
Some pantries said that, despite widespread hardship, local communities are stepping up to the plate.
“We’ve had a huge outpouring of support from our community, of both food and financial donations,” Krantz said.
Mina said he’s concerned donations will take a hit once people return to work.
“Charitable giving isn’t going to be the number one thing on their minds,” he said. “We’re having to prepare for probably a significant drought in donations.”