The name of this nonprofit says it all. Caring about the community is what they do, and they do it with thoughtfulness, collaboration and a deep sense of commitment. Hannaford has supported Brunswick Cares Community Food Pantry through the Fight Hunger Bag and Bloomin’ 4 Good Programs.
Tell us about Brunswick Cares Community Food Pantry.
Brunswick Cares Community Food Pantry provides supplemental food assistance to individuals and families within the Brunswick community and surrounding neighborhoods. We have partnerships with other pantries in the area, so our support tends to cover a five- to ten-mile radius. However, we support whoever comes through our doors, understanding that rural areas surrounding us have pantries with hours that won’t always accommodate everyone. Brunswick Cares is open twice a week, Tuesdays from 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm and Saturdays from 9:00 am to 11:00 am, and is located at 42 White Church Lane, Troy, New York (off State Route 351 in Brunswick). We work with area schools and other referral organizations to reach as many as possible.
The pantry started with a few members of the Brunswick Church congregation because they saw a need. It began small with donations, and we established ourselves in six months. Once we set the hours of twice a week, we have maintained that through thick and thin; our community is committed to helping our neighbors.
What services do you supply to the community?
The pantry provides supplemental food assistance to community members, no questions asked. People who come to us must simply provide proof of identity and that they reside in the area. Individuals and families can come to the pantry once every four weeks, in which we provide them three meals for three days for each member of the family. Essentially each person in a family will get nine meals. People can also come every week for a partial order, which contains milk, bread, eggs and whatever fresh produce we have that week.
Brunswick Cares Community Food Pantry works with local students on volunteer and vocational programs. One group of students assisted with packing our summer meal bags, developing vocational skills in the process.
Besides food bags, we provide birthday party bags to families in our community. When a family is food insecure and struggles to provide groceries for their family, something like a birthday party for their child isn’t a priority. The birthday party bags allow families to have a party. The bags include the cake, the frosting, decorations and simple party favors. Our pantry works with a local middle school service club for this program; we provide all the materials, and they assemble the bags.
The pantry provides supplemental food assistance to community members, no questions asked.
What sets you apart from other nonprofits in your community?
Along with regular groceries, we offer our MOM, Meal of the Month. It is something unique we do for our community and that folks can get with their food order. It’s a bag with a recipe and most ingredients to make that meal. We have been running the MOM program for over five years now, and it started as a simple way to get any surplus stock we may have out to people in need. Often, we’ll have inventory we need to move, such as pasta or beans, or we may have been able to get food items that can benefit others.
One of our volunteers will look up recipes that use these ingredients, and then we will put the MOM bags together. The meals are usually simple crockpot or one-pot meals that are very well-received by our guests. With everything else they have going on, at least one night, they can pull out their MOM bag to make dinner, and the meals usually serve six to eight people.
This program is so well received that almost all our guests select the MOM bag when they pick up their full orders. Many guests say, “I never thought of doing that with these ingredients.” Brunswick Cares Community Food Pantry sees this as a great way to show our guests different, healthy and unique ways to use food while helping to feed the food insecure.
Tell us a story that illustrates the good work of your organization.
The best stories are when we get a phone call from one of the local schools because they have a new family that needs our assistance. We will bring over not just the regular grocery order but also personal hygiene and household supplies. The families are often amazed with what they get and now know there is hope. Many people come in because they’ve lost their job, additional family members have moved in or something else has happened that affects them adversely. They never thought they would end up at a food pantry.
A wonderful moment happened last year when we were offering school gift cards. We gave one to a grandmother taking care of her grandchildren. She was so overwhelmed with gratitude that she started to cry. She had to sit down in a chair; knowing there were resources in the community to help overwhelmed her with hope. Families like this one who need short-term assistance come to our pantry all the time, and once they are back on their feet, they often want to volunteer. It is communities helping communities, and it is a beautiful thing to witness.
It is communities helping communities, and it is a beautiful thing to witness.
What is your most outstanding achievement or contribution to the community?
Because we are associated with the church, we try to administer to many of the ministries we believe in. One of our board members coordinates a team of volunteers that picks up bread from a local outlet every week. They bring the bread to our pantry and at least seven other pantries in the area. A simple thing like bread to make a sandwich benefits those we serve so much. One of the things that we’re proud of is how we try to always work with others.
The local pantries and schools we partner with mean so much to the Brunswick Cares Community Food Pantry. Schools have regularly provided donation drives in support of our pantry. We also help students with learning about community service. All this collaboration and teamwork allows the pantry to continue and thrive.
What do you want people to know about your organization?
We’re here no matter what someone’s circumstances are in life, whether you’re unemployed or underemployed or simply don’t have enough resources to buy food. Frequently folks may find their paycheck or other income source may not be enough. So, you can come to us once every week or once a month. We provide more than just food items. The pantry carries personal hygiene items such as soap, toothpaste and paper towels.
One thing we want people to know is that, unlike other state and federal programs, we don’t ask for proof of income. We’re here to provide the food assistance to help you through whatever circumstances you find yourself in.
How will you use the funds raised from the Hannaford Fight Hunger Reusable Bag and Bloomin’ 4 Good Programs?
These funds are used to help supplement meals and grocery bags. Having resources like the Hannaford Fights Hunger program assists us in making sure we provide well-rounded and balanced food bags to our guests. With these funds, we can go to Hannaford to purchase all the necessary items to balance and fill our food bags.
When we do the MOM bag, sometimes the recipe requires a particular spice or something else. The volunteer shoppers use the funds we receive from the Hannaford Fights Hunger Program to actually go back to Hannaford and purchase additional food to provide for our guests. It becomes a beautiful full-circle process that we are so grateful to have to support our cause.
Is there anything you would like to add?
If people are interested in finding out more about food assistance, how to volunteer or how to donate, please visit the Brunswick Cares Food Pantry website brunswickcares.org or Facebook page www.facebook.com/brunswickcarescommunityfoodpantry.
Jeannie Scott serves on the Board of Brunswick Cares Community Food Pantry.
Published December 20, 2022.