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Acord Food Pantry

Fighting food insecurity and building community.

Acord Food Pantry strives to meet the large unseen need of individuals and families experiencing food insecurity in Hamilton and its surrounding towns, serving over 6,500 clients each year. Shaw’s has supported this nonprofit organization through its GIVE BACK WHERE IT COUNTS Reusable Bag Program.

Tell us about Acord Food Pantry.

Acord Food Pantry was founded in 1991 in a church, like many other food pantries. From the church, we moved into a former firehouse, which is still our building today. Harborlight Community Partners in Beverly took over this building and created four affordable housing units and a space for Acord. We lease the space from them and have been here for 15 years now.

Our mission is to empower individuals and families to feed themselves in a nutritionally balanced way. Of course, the focus is on giving food without any cost to the people we serve.

What services are you providing to the community?

We are a bit smaller than many of the food pantries in our area, but we’ve grown to include many programs.

One of our favorite programs is our seasonal food bags. Around Thanksgiving and Christmas, we fill bags with special holiday meal fixings. We also do vacation lunch bags for kids who will be out of school for regular school vacations and the summer. Many of these students receive free or reduced school lunches when school is in session, but we want to make sure they are taken care of even when they are not in school.

We also have our mobile markets, where we bring food to various locations for people who cannot come to the food pantry themselves. For example, we will take our mobile markets to housing authorities, councils on aging, and any other place it might be needed.

We also offer senior meals, which people tend to really love. We provide our senior clients with ready-made meals that we order through a nonprofit in Salem, Massachusetts. For these meals, our primary focus is ensuring we provide a protein, since most seniors don’t get enough in their daily diets.

We are always looking for ways to meet people where they are so they can comfortably get food as needed.

We are always looking for ways to meet people where they are so they can comfortably get food as needed.

What sets Acord Food Pantry apart from other nonprofits in your community?

Both our staff and volunteers are incredibly kind and welcoming. We are fortunate to have 120 amazing volunteers, which is a tremendous amount. We rely greatly on our volunteers, who do a ton of work for us. Because of this, we can run an entire business with only four part-time staff members.

Since we are so small, we can pivot quickly. We can make decisions on the fly, and we don’t have to worry about a lot of red tape.

Please tell us a story that illustrates the good work of your organization.

Senior Day is held every Thursday morning at our pantry. Right now, over 50% of our clients are seniors. The need is great, but the older population tends to be very proud, so they don’t necessarily want to come in. Because of this, we have worked to make it welcoming for them.

On Thursday morning, the pantry is open exclusively for people over the age of 60. Before the pantry opens, so many clients are here. They hang out together outside and bring chairs and chat with each other. Seeing the community that has grown out of this event is heartwarming. For many of these seniors, it is a social occasion and an opportunity to get out and about. We also have consistent volunteers on Thursdays, whom our seniors are always glad to see. This type of community building and personalized support makes a difference in their lives.

Recently, one woman wrote us a note after her husband had died. When someone passes away, social security is lowered to only one check per month, instead of two. This client told us how she was in danger of losing her house because she could no longer afford to pay the taxes on it. For her, being able to come to Acord Food Pantry to get food made the difference that helped her keep her home.

We hear stories like this all the time. Food prices are exorbitant, and it is amazing to be able to cover this cost and make a difference in someone’s life. People are treated with dignity when they come to us, which matters more than anything else.

What is your most outstanding achievement or contribution to the community?

Hamilton is an affluent town surrounded by more affluent towns. Helping people in our community understand that there is a large unseen need is a huge accomplishment. Simply reiterating time after time that there is a great need here is so important.

Helping people in our community understand that there is a large unseen need is a huge accomplishment.

Some people seem like they are doing well in their house when you can’t see behind the doors, but they might really be struggling. So, we want people to know that food insecurity exists in our community and that they can help.

What do you want people to know about Acord Food Pantry?

We are here for everyone who needs us. Whether you need help or would like to contribute or volunteer, we’re here for everyone. No matter what the need may be, we are here to support our community.

How will you use the funds received from the Shaw’s GIVE BACK WHERE IT COUNTS Reusable Bag Program?

We are fortunate to get so much support from the community, but $1,500 is a lot of money to us. As a small organization, it means a lot.

The need is growing, which is unfortunate, but we’re glad we’re here to try to meet it. To do this, we have created more programs, such as the mobile market we started in 2019. We also recently purchased a van, which was quite expensive. The timing of these partnerships has been perfect for supporting all of our new programs.

The need is growing, which is unfortunate, but we’re glad we’re here to try to meet it.

We are a small organization, both in size and structure. So, recently, we were looking to expand and began leasing 500 square feet at another affordable housing building for extra storage. We also wanted to buy a built-in fridge and freezer for this space because they have an unbelievable storage capacity compared to a commercial fridge or freezer.

This money has gone towards this expansion project and our van, both of which we were able to complete. Interestingly enough, we used the van for the first time this morning to go to a mobile market and put the first food in our new freezer. Everything is finally coming together.

Is there anything you would like to add?

We want people to understand that there’s a real need. For those who need it, we hope they’ll reach out to Acord and that they will feel comfortable accepting help. All of us are one step, one mistake, one illness, or one job loss away from needing help. I want people to know that reaching out for help is okay. We are happy to be here. My biggest fear is that someone in our community is in need and is hesitant to reach out. I hope that they will decide to take the first step to receiving assistance and reach out to Acord.

Interview with Stacey Verge, Executive Director

Published April 18, 2024.