The First Parish Newbury Food Pantry has grown from serving a single person in December 2015 to feeding over 300 people each Friday. We are the largest all-volunteer food pantry in the Greater Newbury/ Newburyport area serving the communities of Newbury, Byfield, Newburyport, West Newbury, Salisbury, Rowley, Ipswich, and Georgetown.
Summary and Key Facts (pdf)
The mission of the First Parish Newbury Food Pantry is twofold; alleviating hunger in the greater Newbury/ Newburyport area and providing residents with opportunities to help their neighbors. We supply nutritional food at no cost to families who need food assistance. Each week, over 80 volunteers welcome their neighbors with compassion and respect and help provide the food families have requested.
The First Parish Newbury Food Pantry is grateful to have wide support throughout the eight communities we serve.
Every week, over 80 volunteers assist the pantry, donating more than 320 hours of their time. They deliver food every Friday to over 90 households who have issues with transportation. To accommodate our guests who do not have internet access or are not comfortable with ordering online, our staff of volunteers call over 100 households each week. Many of our seniors are socially isolated and our weekly call is a welcome opportunity to talk to a friendly and non-judgmental neighbor who is there to help them.
In addition to our volunteers, 17 service organizations and churches have held food and gift card drives and raised money to support our work alleviating hunger in our community. Our supporters include:
The Newburyport Lion’s Club
The Newbury Police
Triton High School-
Central Congregational Church
Old South Church
Main Street Congregational Church
First Religious Society
Immaculate Conception Church
The Greater Boston Food Bank (GBFB) provides, at low cost, the majority of the food we distribute.
Nourishing the North Shore (NNS) provides the pantry with fresh, locally grown produce. We also participate in their weekly school food recovery program. Each week, NNS picks up unused food like milk and fruit cups that are then distributed by the food pantry.
Pennies for Poverty assists us with recruiting and scheduling volunteers.
The Elder Pet Fund enables us to provide free dog and cat food. We know from experience that given limited resources, some of our guests have chosen to feed their pets rather than themselves. Partnering with the Elder Pet Fund prevents our guests from having to sacrifice their needs to feed their pets.
In addition, 12 farms and 14 businesses provide us with discounted or donated food for our guests to offset shortages due to Covid 19.
The people we serve reside in Newburyport (50.5%), Newbury/Byfield (23.3%), Rowley (7.5%), Salisbury (9.9%), Ipswich (1.2%), Georgetown (2.2%) and West Newbury (.6%) as well as 4.9% in surrounding towns. 64.3% of all households who use the pantry have a senior living in their household.
The First Parish Newbury Food Pantry (FPNFP) opened its doors to the community in December 2015 with just three volunteers and one guest recipient. Over the next twelve months in response to outreach efforts, the pantry expanded both its base of volunteers and the number of people served.
In August of 2016, the pantry was approved by the Greater Boston Food Bank (GBFB) as a partner in their food distribution program. This approval helped the pantry expand to include more products, including frozen meats and other perishable goods. By the end of 2016, the pantry was serving approximately 100 households a week.
In 2017 the pantry partnered with Nourishing the North Shore (NNS) to provide fresh, locally grown produce for our guests. With their support, the pantry established an outside “farmers market” where, during the summer months, participants can select fresh vegetables and fruits. Also in 2017, Pennies for Poverty began helping recruit volunteers for the pantry and started a delivery and transport service to eliminate one of the biggest barriers to food security.
By the end of 2019, the pantry was serving approximately 150 households a week in the greater Newbury/Newburyport area.
In January 2020, the World Health Organization declared COVID a pandemic. For those already at risk for food insecurity, the impact was devastating. The number of people in need of food assistance dramatically increased requiring a redesign of pantry operations.
To meet the expanded need for food due to COVID, we more than doubled our hours of operation. As church services were suspended, we were able to expand from using the church’s library and sanctuary to having food stacked on every pew. Our shoppers walked down one aisle picking items from pews on either side and then returned up the other aisle picking from both sides of the aisle.
In March 2020 when the Council on Aging buses stopped bringing guests to the pantry, we significantly expanded home delivery of groceries. Due to Covid, many food pantries were forced to close, or they switched to pre-packaged bags of food. We innovated and changed from in-person shopping to online ordering so that our guests could choose from 250-300 frozen, fresh and packaged grocery and personnel care items to get the nutritious food they needed. Letting them choose also avoided giving our guests unwanted food in prepackaged bags that could have led to food waste.
Together with Pennies for Poverty, we recruited volunteers to call guests who didn’t have internet access or were uncomfortable ordering online. Each of our volunteer callers reach out to their assigned guests every week. They become familiar with their guests and can better respond to each person’s unique needs. Our weekly phone calls are a welcomed conversation with a friendly neighbor and a chance for our callers to ask what their current needs are.
We also greatly expanded our delivery service for people who don’t have transportation or are medically vulnerable, delivering to over 90 households every week.
By the start of 2021 we were calling 120 guests to assist them with ordering online, delivering to 100 households, and feeding 250-300 people every Friday.
We knew that the church eventually wanted to return to in person services when Covid ended and needed to find a new home. After months of searching for a new location, Bryce and Mary Jo Anderson volunteered the temporary use of a garage on Hanover St. In June, we used donated and purchased metal shelving to equip the new space to handle shopping for 250 to 300 items every week. With the help of our volunteers and the crew from Ace Cleanouts of Haverhill, we moved the last of our freezers and food into our new location on Saturday June 26th. We opened the following Friday, July 2nd, not missing a week.
The First Parish Church of Newbury approved the use of church property to build a 40’ x 60’ prefabricated metal building so the pantry would have a permanent home. A building permit was issued in November and site work began in December. The pantry has been the beneficiary of generous donations from many individuals and businesses who have helped fund the new building. We have raised the estimated $320,000 cost of the building and new fixtures. We anticipate being in our new building by April 2022.