When a food pantry starts serving more people, it needs a place to store more food. More than 1,800 families receive food from the Good Hope food pantry in Lynnfield, with a dozen new families coming every week.
“Our goal is to never turn people away who come for food,” said Charles Rukwaro, executive director of Good Hope.
That got tougher as pantries in nearby Lynn closed in 2015, accelerating the already increasing number of clients.
“We were cutting back on what we were giving people because we couldn’t fit it [any additional food],” said Kristin Klopotoski, program coordinator at Good Hope.
Good Hope turned to The Greater Boston Food Bank (GBFB) to help expand its operation. Good Hope applied and received a GBFB capacity grant for nearly $9,000. Combined with more than $16,000 provided by the Walmart Foundation and a few thousand dollars of its own, Good Hope purchased two industrial-sized refrigerators, two industrial-sized freezers, 12 shelving units, a pallet jack, six stainless steel tables and additional equipment last October.
Prior to the grant, Good Hope only had two household refrigerators, which were routinely filled beyond capacity, to store their food.
“Before this, we couldn’t keep vegetables for more than a day without refrigeration,” Charles said. “Now we give out lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.”
Kristin estimated the pantry distributed about 20 percent perishable items before the upgrades and are now up to 50 percent. Overall, Good Hope increased its food distribution by 45 percent—providing an average of 27,500 pounds of food each month.
“We want people to leave here with enough to make a full healthy meal,” Kristin said.
The upgrades didn’t just help the clients. The pallet jack and other equipment enables staff and volunteers—many of whom are clients themselves— to load the food directly onto an elevator, as opposed to carrying their weekly 7,500-pound GBFB order down a flight of stairs.
“Without this increased capacity, we would never be able to serve all these people,” Charles said.