“We don’t get a pouring out of food,” said Lauri Rawls, 44, director of community service at Endicott who has worked at the College for almost four years. “But we received a good amount last year.”
Rawls is coordinating the food drive this week, giving Endicott students the chance to donate to two local food pantries: The Open Door in Gloucester and Beverly Bootstraps. Boxes have been placed in Endicott’s residence halls and volunteers will go door-to-door to collect canned goods.
Endicott is just one of many groups donating to food pantries on the North Shore this fall as representatives in the field say they’ve seen an increase in clients. Endicott’s Community Service department has a long-standing partnership with Beverly Bootstraps, which offers housing stability, youth education and counseling in addition to its food pantry.
“We’ve had lots of new people, first time intakes coming to the pantry,” said Andrea Jones, 36, director of community service at Beverly Bootstraps. Her service, like others in the area, has seen a 15 percent increase in clients from last year, five or six people a day sometimes. She attributed this to job loss and struggles through the effects of the recent recession.
“Everyone is in financial need,” she said, which is why partnerships like theirs with the College are critical. “With Lauri, if we have a need, we usually send her an e-mail and students just show up.”
Last year, Beverly Bootstraps received 144, 371.6 pounds of food from donations while this year they have received 76,671.91 pounds so far. Jones expects these numbers to rise during the fall with Thanksgiving and Christmas, the biggest donation seasons of the year.
“The summer months are difficult for food pantries,” said Julie Bishop, vice president of grants and services at Essex County Community Foundation (ECCF) in Danvers. According to Bishop, as schools close for the summer and families head to the beach and enjoy the weather, food pantry shelves get bare and the need for creative food drives like the Halloween drive at Endicott increases.
In response to the tough economy and to help fund and support food pantries in the Essex County, the ECCF set up a website in 2009, www.essexcountyhungerrelief.org, that includes a database of food services in Essex County to help link donors, food pantries and people needing food.
One of the group’s projects has been to support the annual food drive of the National Association of Letter Carriers each May in which informational postcards and a grocery bag are placed inside resident’s mailboxes. Residents can then leave the grocery bag by their mailbox for the letter carriers to collect and take back to the post office for distribution to local food pantries.
“They found statistically that we get 30 to 50 percent more food when people see the postcard and the grocery bag because they can just go to their pantries and put the bag out by their mailbox,” said Bishop. This particular food drive helps stock the food pantries’ shelves during the summer as they wait for future fall donations.
According to the ECCF’s reports from food pantries, this year has seen been an increase in the numbers and kinds of families using their services. “People who possibly were volunteers in the past are now finding themselves needing to access free food,” said Bishop.