SPENCER – Every can of vegetables, box of macaroni, or dollar bill that will be donated at Saturday’s Feeding Our Neighbors event helps to ease the burden of a local resident or family for whom affording groceries has become a challenge.
The food drive, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sept. 30, is in the parking lot of David Prouty High School, 302 Main St., Spencer.
Folks are asked to stop by and donate non-perishable, unexpired food items which will be distributed through the food pantry at Mary, Queen of the Rosary parish’s food bank. Monetary donations are welcomed and are used to defray the costs of running the pantry.
The food pantry is open on Thursdays from 10 a.m. to noon at the church, 46 Maple St., Spencer.
Maurice “Moe” Wilson, director of the pantry, said that in the first 8 months of 2023, the food pantry served 5,272 people and the need is constantly growing.
“It has more than doubled since last year,” Wilson said. “I think it’s the high cost of living: electricity, groceries, medications. People can’t afford it all.”
More than 2,000 of the food pantry’s clients are over 60 years old and Wilson, himself a senior citizen, said he believes the country could do better caring for the elderly.
Events like the Feeding Our Neighbors food drive help fill the cupboards at the church, he said. Monetary donations help fund the cost of weekly truck rentals so that volunteers can drive to Shrewsbury and bring back items to help feed those in need.
“The U-Haul is $125 a week with the rental and gas,” Wilson explained. “And we can’t expect the church to pay for the electricity for our 8 freezers so we have to pay for that.”
Wilson also picks up donations from area grocery stores; produce, meats that are frozen but have passed their sell-by date, pastries, and other items. Nothing goes to waste, he said.
Wire Village Elementary School has organized its own food drive with help from students and teachers in partnership with Spencer Cable Access. They will be stopping by on Saturday to drop off their donations. The pantry also benefits from the US Postal Service’s annual food drive and during the holidays they’re blessed by other local agencies which help gather more than 100 turkeys and all the fixings for a holiday meal which includes 100 pies donated by Table Talk Pies, Inc. of Worcester.
“I can’t say enough about Table Talk,” Wilson said. “They give us 100 pies, 8-inch pies, and they allow us to buy more (at a deeply discounted rate). Their heart is in the right place.”
Wilson said every Thursday, a line of cars stretches from the church as folks wait to pick up the much-needed food. Volunteers visit each car and have those inside fill out a slip with the ages of the people who’ll be using the food.
“There’s one bag that everyone gets and then we try to choose things like if there are kids, we add items for them,” he explained. “We served 250 people last week alone.”
Because he’s seeing a decline in the amount of food available from the Worcester County Food Bank and other resources, folks are asked to alternate the weeks they use the Spencer program but he’s also accommodating and allows family members to pick up for those who cannot.
Seeing so much need in the small community can be difficult, but, WIlson said, there are always success stories.
He told of a woman who’d been a regular at the food bank for some time and when he noticed she was no longer stopping by, he called to check on her.
“She had found a good job and she no longer needed help,” he said. “So there are success stories.”