With regional food banks experiencing unprecedented demand, Big Y World Class Market is providing an additional $125,000 in support to address the rise in food insecurity due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With the donations made in March, Big Y has provided $250,000 in financial assistance to area food banks in addition to the healthy surplus food it provides to them on a weekly basis.
Using the estimate that every dollar donated provides four meals, the Big Y financial assistance amounts to 1 million meals.
“Our goal, our mission, is to feed families,” said Charlie D’Amour, president and CEO of Big Y. “We have people in our communities that are really struggling to get food on their table. The role of food banks serving local neighborhoods has never been more important.”
The donation will be split equally by The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, the Worcester County Food Bank and the Greater Boston Food Bank in Massachusetts, as well as Foodshare and the Connecticut Food Bank in Connecticut. As part of the commitment to hunger relief in its neighborhoods and ongoing partnerships with regional food banks, Big Y provided an estimated $11.5 million of healthy surplus food to these organizations in 2019. This donation amounts to an estimated 5.7 million meals, two-thirds of which include donations of meat and fresh produce as well as bakery and nonperishable grocery items. Frozen food and dairy products account for one-third of the annual donation.
“Local feeding sites are receiving new patrons from the ranks of the recently unemployed who have never sought food assistance before,” stated Andrew Morehouse, executive director of The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts. “The coronavirus poses an even greater threat to vulnerable households at risk of hunger.”
Catherine D’Amato, president and CEO of the Greater Boston Food Bank (GBFB), said, “According to a recent poll, GBFB estimates anywhere from 17,400 to 24,500 new households sought help during the week of May 4 alone in Eastern Massachusetts. We are spending all fundraised dollars on purchasing food, investments in our team members, the capacity of our 500-plus partner network and the safety and cleanliness of our facility. While the food supply chain has gone from reliable to variable, we have been required to adapt.” Worcester County, in Massachusetts, is experiencing a similar rise in food insecurity.
“Worcester County Food Bank is inspired and encouraged by the community’s outpouring of support for our mission and their neighbors struggling with food insecurity during this challenging time of COVID-19 and economic upheaval,” said Worcester County Food Bank Executive Director Jean G. McMurray. “Together with our network of food pantries and community meal programs, we are providing help and hope during this time of so much uncertainty.”
In Connecticut, Daniel Gomez, COO and interim CEO of the Connecticut Food Bank, stated, “The situation is changing rapidly, but our analysis predicts that the Connecticut Food Bank will need an additional $7.8 million over the next six months to provide food assistance to everyone facing hunger. This figure is based on projections that the pandemic could push as many as 187,000 more Connecticut residents into food insecurity.”
Jason Jakubowski, president and CEO of Foodshare, which serves Hartford and Tolland counties in Connecticut, explained that “over 70 percent of those seeking our assistance are experiencing food insecurity for the first time, and we know that this need will likely continue long after the initial COVID-19 response period. Our current response has necessitated a sharp increase in expenses; we are currently spending in excess of $100,000 each week on purchased food and other expenses related to the pandemic.”
Big Y Foods Inc. is one of the largest independently owned supermarket chains in New England. With almost 12,000 employees, Big Y operates 83 locations throughout Massachusetts and Connecticut, including 71 supermarkets, Fresh Acres Market, Table & Vine Fine Wines and Liquors, and 10 Big Y Express gas and convenience locations.