COVID-19 has a significant impact on our society and on each of us personally, even in the Berkshires. Here at Saint James Place, our building remains closed except for a very important section down at the bottom floor facing Taconic Avenue: The People’s Pantry. Many members of our Southern Berkshire community depend on daily wages to meet their needs. With most businesses shut down and people working from home, these people have no way to earn a living. In times like these, the People’s Pantry – our local food shelf in Great Barrington – is needed more than ever before.
The People’s Pantry has adapted to a new reality in the past weeks. All shopping is now done outdoors under a tent generously donated and installed by Mahaiwe Tent. Shoppers are handed a pre-packed grocery bag filled with non-perishable items such as canned vegetables, pasta, toilet paper and peanut butter. As the shoppers move through the line one at a time, they point to the produce, bread, milk and other perishables they need, and volunteers wearing protective gloves place it in the bag for them.
Many volunteers are brand new to helping at the People’s Pantry. The majority of regular volunteers are senior citizens. With new precautions in place to keep our seniors at home and safe, younger volunteers are stepping up to help. Healthy, young professional folks with some extra time and the desire to help the community have joined the ranks of People’s Pantry volunteers. For some it has become the highlight of their week, a way to get out and safely help others.
“It feels good right now to do something so concrete for my neighbors,” said one new volunteer. “I know this will be a part of my life even after things return to normal.”
The People’s Pantry also coordinates with area schools to get groceries to families in need. Volunteers in the basement of Saint James Place package vegetables, fruit, bread and other items for dispersal to school families. Many of the usual sources of donations have dried up but community members are stepping up to fill the need. Most notably area farmers are working to get fresh, local produce to the Pantry and the schools. (Find area farmers here.) As restaurants close down for weeks, most operations are donating their supplies as well.
Somehow, in the chaos of all things surrounding the new reality of quarantine and social distancing, the People’s Pantry has redoubled its efforts and is serving those hit hard by this virus. To find out about donating supplies of fund to the People’s Pantry click HERE. To sign up to volunteer click HERE. People’s Pantry days/hours:
While renovating Saint James Place, it was clear the permanent home of the People’s Pantry would be an important part of the future. We are thankful to have planned ahead for times like these.