CLINTON - At WHEAT Community Connections, like so many non-profits, staff knows all too well that 2020 was a massive challenge. Huge spikes in need for food and the cancellation of fundraising events forced many area feeding programs to reduce services or even close.
But there were also many moments of joy, including when Greater Clinton residents and businesses came together to help: preparing and delivering meals, stocking shelves, holding food drives, and donating much needed critical funds.
Another moment came in November, when WHEAT was awarded a Food Security Infrastructure Grant from the Mass. Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EOEEA).
Purchases with these funds include a brand new 12-foot box truck with a lift, something desperately needed at WHEAT for picking up and transporting increased quantities of food from Worcester County Food Bank and other local donors, according to Jodi Breidel, North County regional director at WHEAT. The truck will also be used to deliver lunchtime meals to area seniors and low-income families.
Other grant funded items include: a three-door refrigerator, a three-door freezer, and two new chest freezers to expand cold storage of perishable items; an icemaker to use in meal preparation and delivery; and temperature controlled Cambro units for meal distribution.
Prior to COVID-19, one in 11 Massachusetts households faced hunger, about 9% of residents. Since March 2020, about 38% of people are now food insecure, according to Project Bread. WHEAT Community Connections helps fill these gaps, and infrastructure investments will allow WHEAT to meet the needs of the growing number of people who are now suddenly seeking food assistance, and for future emergency situations.
“These purchases will help us to deliver food and meals more efficiently and store an increased volume of food for regular distribution," Breidel said. "In 2020, we distributed 529,994 pounds of food and served 4,032 families through our food pantry. In addition, 57,640 meals were provided for lunch and dinner, a 428.6% increase from last year. The truck, refrigeration and freezer units are helping get food to people who need it today and will help long into the future. We are eternally grateful to the State Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs for this gift.”
WHEAT Community Connections has been serving residents in Berlin, Bolton, Clinton, Lancaster, and Sterling since 1982, and in 2012 became a direct service of the United Way of Tri County. WHEAT operates a food pantry and hot meal program and offers case management, providing clients with assistance connecting to other social service programs in the area. WHEAT’s Hidden Treasures Thrift Store provides low-to-no-cost furniture, household items, clothing, shoes and more in a clean, organized retail setting, and all proceeds help subsidize their food programs.
For information about WHEAT Community Connections, visit the United Way of Tri-County website at www.uwotc.org/WHEAT.