HARWICH – The mission of the Family Pantry of Cape Cod is simple: to provide food and clothing to those in need. But as the pantry has grown, so have its offerings and the need continues, according to Mary Anderson, the executive director of the pantry.
“There are still challenges. . . . I certainly see improvement in the economy but I think as some people get on their feet and don’t need us, somebody else gets their electric bill that just went up 30 percent,” Anderson said.
The pantry just celebrated 28 years last fall. It was started by a small group of volunteers of the St. Vincent de Paul Society out of Holy Trinity Church. They were giving out food vouchers and were having trouble keeping up with the need, so they decided to open a food pantry, Anderson said.
From those humble beginnings, the pantry has grown to operate out of a 12,000 square foot warehouse. Since 2005, the number of people the pantry serves is up 70 percent, Anderson said.
From a fish distribution to a garden, to a new large thrift shop, the pantry is growing to meet the need.
The Family Pantry, which is the largest food pantry on Cape Cod, has clients from Bourne to Provincetown, with the largest number of clients coming from the town of Barnstable.
The pantry has recently embarked on a program called Fish for Families, a partnership with the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance and through the alliance, the pantry distributed dogfish this winter. A distribution of skate wings is expected to take place in April.
Amy Camenga, president of the board of directors of the Family Pantry, said, “We’re able to afford this because of the price that they give us.”
A survey of pantry clients showed they would eat fish frequently if they could afford it. “It was pretty clear from the survey that people would eat a lot more fish if they could afford it,” Anderson said.
One of the statistics that often takes people by surprise, Anderson said, is that approximately two-thirds of the clients who come to the Family Pantry for food have at least one person in the household who is working and in many cases there are two people working. They just don’t make quite enough to cover the cost of living here.
About a year and a half ago, the pantry started a satellite pantry at Cape Cod Community College, which is managed by the college’s Legacy Club under the pantry’s operating principles.
New this year, the Family Pantry is planning to start a mobile pantry using a grant it recently received from Blue Cross Blue Shield. Anderson said a business plan will be put together for the new program, which will likely begin on the Outer Cape with stops at the senior centers.
“I think the seniors are probably our most under served population,” she said.
Mary Anderson, executive director of the Family Pantry of Cape Cod, and Amy Camenga, president of the board of directors of the Family Pantry, speak about the pantry’s programs in the interview below.