United Way Food Drive Collects Nearly $30,000 in Food for Local Pantries

Over 600 households to benefit from drive thanks to community collaboration

April Foods Drive

Ginny’s Helping Hand and St. Leo’s de Paul Food Pantry collected donations from the April Foods Drive. From left to right, Joe Tammaro, Betsy Tammaro and Laura Burns from St. Leo’s; Dave Bergeron from Ginny’s Helping Hand; Brandon Robbins, Ginny’s Helping Hand Executive Director; Crystal Nash from Leominster Credit Union; Judy Thomlinson, UWNCM Director of Community Impact and Missy Teken from LCU.

The United Way of North Central Massachusetts (UWNCM) recently distributed nearly $30,000 worth of food and essentials to local food pantries for their “April Foods Drive.” Running April 1- June 8, the drive provided critical supplies to 12 food pantries throughout North Central Massachusetts and is expected to feed more than 600 households.

The food drive is part of United to Feed North Central Mass, a new initiative run by UWNCM that brings together community partners to fight food insecurity in the region. Using the tagline “Hunger is No Joke,” the April drive collected twice as much worth of food as the initiative’s 2022 holiday food drive.

The drive was a true community effort, as residents donated non-perishable food through boxes hosted at nearly 40 establishments, including banks, grocery stores and libraries. UWNCM also provided family food staples such as peanut butter and oatmeal and worked with Leominster-based non-profit Growing Places to source a variety of fresh produce from local farms, ranging from carrots and potatoes to leafy greens and herbs.

Throughout the drive, volunteers picked up donated food from boxes, and on June 7-8, a dozen local pantries came to UWNCM to load their vans, many of which were completely filled. The drive sought to restock food pantry shelves during a time when many pantries are low on resources as they approach their fiscal year ends.

The Montachusett Veterans Outreach Center (MVOC), a non-profit based in Gardner, was both a participant and recipient in the drive, as they donated leftover Bombas socks from their clothing pantry and also received donated food items.

“This food drive came at a critical time in MVOC’s pantry,” says Stephanie Marchetti, Executive Director of MVOC. “Our regular suppliers have been low on shelf stable items, and since it’s the last month of the fiscal year we did not have the funds to cover this gap. The United Way stepped up, coordinated with lots of great local partners, and we can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that our veterans and their families will have what they need.”

As part of the drive, Catania Oils, based in Ayer, ran an internal food drive, collecting more than $550 worth of food donated by employees.

“One of the fundamental principles embedded in Catania Oil’s purpose statement is to make a lasting impact on the community. Our employees consistently demonstrate their willingness to support and uplift the community in various ways,” says Annemarie Abdo, Vice President of Human Resources at Catania Oils. “As a result of the tremendous effort put forth, we were able to collect a substantial amount of food, reinforcing our commitment to addressing food insecurity and supporting those in need. Moving forward, we are enthusiastic about further collaborations with the United Way, participating in their upcoming community events. By joining forces, we can continue making a positive difference and fostering a stronger, more vibrant community together.”

UWNCM will launch their next food drive in fall 2023 to provide food for the holiday season. Judy Tomlinson, UWNCM Director of Community Impact, says, “We are grateful to everyone who helped make our April Foods Drive such a success, including local companies, volunteers and generous donors, and we look forward to continuing to unite community members to feed those in need.”

The United Way of North Central Massachusetts serves the communities of Ashburnham, Ashby, Athol, Ayer, Devens, Fitchburg, Gardner, Groton, Harvard, Hubbardston, Leominster, Littleton, Pepperell, Lunenburg, Petersham, Phillipston, Royalston, Shirley, Templeton, Townsend, Westminster and Winchendon.