The People’s Pantry in Great Barrington, Massachusetts has been respectfully helping address issues of food insecurity in the southern Berkshire Community since 1999 by distributing healthy food that is locally sourced whenever possible.

In recent years both demand for the pantries services and the cost of doing what the nonprofit does has skyrocketed, and as a result, The People’s Pantry is embarking this month on what they are calling The Help-Fill-The-Bag Fundraiser.

Massachusetts is the second most expensive place to buy groceries in the contiguous United States – falling only slightly behind front-runner New York State. As of late, dramatic increases in the cost of living in combination with diminished affordable housing have resulted in an exponential increase in the number of clients the People's Pantry serves.

Prior to the Pandemic, the pantry helped feed roughly 500 individuals a month. At the height of the Pandemic, they saw those numbers triple, and demand has increased even as the Covid Crisis has been receding. Currently, the pantry helps to feed over 2000 individuals a month.

Just as we all have been experiencing the effects of inflation on our pocketbooks, the pantry has also seen a dramatic rise in expenses. Their operating budget increased by 500% between 2018 and 2021, and in recent months the cost of doing their important work has increased even more.

In response to this recent and ongoing financial stress, the People's Pantry has decided to host its first-ever fundraiser in 23 years of service. The Help-fill-the-bag fundraiser hopes to raise $300,000 by year’s end to cover this year’s projected expenses. That number is daunting, and perhaps surprising to some folks as the pantry is mostly staffed by dedicated volunteers, with just one part-time paid employee working 10 hours a week and donating facilities located at Saint James Place. Compared to other non-profits, their administrative costs are far below average and they are able to turn more than 85¢ of each dollar donated directly into food on the tables of hundreds of families in the community.

The People's Pantry's mission is to help create an environment that contributes to the building of healthy lives for individuals and families in order to strengthen the southern Berkshire community. They work to achieve this by purchasing locally sourced food whenever possible. This means that the People’s Pantry contributes to the local agricultural economy, reduces its environmental impact in terms of transportation, and helps preserve open spaces in Berkshire and neighboring counties. Donations to the Pantry, therefore, contribute to the well-being of the community as a whole.

There are lots of ways folks can get involved and help the mission. They can drop off non-perishable food items in donation boxes in front of the pantry and they are always looking for volunteers interested in working side by side with their neighbors. However, at the current moment, their most dire need is financial support.

The People’s Pantry of Great Barrington is a 501(c)(3), and all monetary donations are tax-deductible. ThePeoplesPantryGB.org gives more information about the group's mission, its operation, and ways they can help keep the pantry going. Folks can also contact Rees Shad of the pantry's Communications Committee at (518) 796-0863 sweetfish@aol.com

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