Open Door to host food drive, anticipates high need during shutdown



In the United States alone, forty percent of all food is wasted. Yet, in Gloucester, one in six families utilize the Open Door Food Pantry.

This Saturday, January 19th, the tenth annual Open Door food drive will be held from 9AM to 3PM at Market Basket in Gloucester.

The drive will be primarily collecting canned tuna, as well as other canned and jarred foods, in search of protein for the drive’s recipients. In past years, they have set and exceeded a goal of a ton of canned protein, this year they are hoping to find the same success.

Each year the event is held in honor of Martin Luther King day, and organized by the Gloucester Democratic City Committee (GDCC). This year, the pantry and the GDCC are especially expecting an influx of pantry-goers, due to the prolonged government shutdown, and the possible severe repercussions a further extended shutdown may cause.

“As SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits run out, we are preparing for an increased need at our pantry,” said Open Door Executive Director Julie LaFontaine.

However, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker has publicly said that the state has means to continue funding the SNAP for the time being. In edition, SNAP recipients will be given their February benefits on January  20th, upon requests from the federal government.

LaFontaine does not want this early distribution of benefits to distract from the increased risk of food insecurity, however.

“This is an early benefit, not an extra benefit.”

GDCC public service coordinator and project head Bernadette Merenda believes that though SNAP benefits can be lifesaving for families, it does not totally eliminate the threat of food insecurity.

“The maximum SNAP benefits for a single person is $192 a month. It is supplementing them, not covering them.”

Merenda also insisted that citizens should understand the diversity of pantry-goers, to understand how or why they may need this aid.

“A person who uses the food pantry may be an elderly person on social security, someone from the homeless shelter with no income,” said Merenda. “Or, in many cases it’s the single mother, maybe with two jobs, one of those jobs just paying for daycare.”

Another major issue at risk due to the shutdown is affordable housing. Meaning that citizens receiving subsidies given directly to landlords to aid low-income households may face paying the entire bill on their own.

“People could be looking at eviction if no money is provided,” said Merenda. “Landlords can evict left and right.”

Because of these vouchers being at risk, many families may have to compensate for this unexpected cost by cutting their food budget, as well as other monthly expenses. This could mean an increase in visits first time visitors as well as faithful pantry goers.

The Open Door will be accepting any and all canned or jarred proteins, such as tuna, chicken, or peanut butter. Donations can also be made at the Open Door website at any time of the year.

“Hunger is not a partisan issue,” said LaFontaine.

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