Providing Food Security in the "New Normal"
While the calendar has turned another year, 2022 feels a lot like a new version of 2020, far from a pandemic or crisis-free “normal.” We are looking out at the horizon knowing that we can’t return to working and living like we did in 2019, but rather how we must adapt so we can live full lives, support our community and move forward. At ONT, the guiding voice for how we adapt is that of our guests, our neighbors experiencing food insecurity. We heard from more than 500 households last year that they need ONT to continue offering a hybrid of in-person and curbside groceries and meals. Our focus in the coming months is to make that a reality. It will require new and different resources, some internal re-organization and participation of our guests and from you, our community. ONT is not adapting alone. We are working closely with partners across the region, our fellow food providers across the Lower Merrimack Valley, our leaders, Greater Boston Food Bank, and our local food producers. With change comes great excitement and, sometimes, angst. We’ve spent the last 30 years evolving to break down barriers to food security; we’re well equipped for this challenge.
I look forward to sharing more with you this Spring and working beside you to continue our quest for a Food Secure Region by 2029.
Here's to an early Spring!
Getting Food on the Table in 2022
Joanne's Pantry Opens at Salisbury Senior Center!
Since 2018, ONT’s Food Security Advisory Group has conducted community needs assessments and strategized to raise awareness of food insecurity across all sectors of our community. In 2021, the FSAG completed Community Readiness Assessments to determine which sectors were still learning and which were ready to mobilize and take action against food insecurity. From a Food Security 101 Training for all Amesbury City Department Heads to collecting data on nutrition-related nurse visits in Newburyport Public Schools, FSAG members are leading the charge to ensure all of our neighbors have access to food. In the coming year, ONT will be offering a full calendar of trainings and strategy session with schools, health care providers, law enforcement, and elder services. If you’d like to participate in or host a training session for your community group, please reach out to email@example.com.
Volunteer Spotlight - Lisa Hayes
Lisa Hayes came to Our Neighbors’ Table at a crucial time in our growth as an organization. She started in 2019 as a reception volunteer and saw that some of the data entry processes in the office could be streamlined with a bit of Excel expertise. Once the staff learned about Lisa's skills and professional background in supply chain management, she was quickly enlisted to help with ONT's inventory system. Lisa became an integral part of automating food procurement, budgeting, and shifting ONT programs to the SmartChoice online ordering system at the start of the pandemic. This made huge strides in ONT’s ability to organize and efficiently distribute food and to be able to pivot quickly to a curbside model when the pandemic began. “Lisa came in with a "can do" attitude, knowledge at a level far above our own, and was able to work with us to listen to what our needs are, thoughtfully develop systems that responded to our needs, and supply the expertise, leadership, learning and actual tools to implement the systems,” Lori Townsend, Program Director, said of Lisa’s impact. Read more about Lisa in this month's Volunteer Spotlight ››
News & Events
Sponsor and Serve Opportunities now Available!
Lisa Hayes came to Our Neighbors’ Table at a crucial time in our growth as an organization. She started in 2019 as a reception volunteer and while she was in the office, saw that some of the data entry processes could be streamlined with a bit of Excel expertise. After Lisa completed that project, ONT Executive Director, Lyndsey Haight, and Program Director, Lori Townsend, found out about Lisa’s professional background in supply chain management. They asked if she could help automate and review the ONT inventory system. Lisa became an integral part of automating food procurement, budgeting, and shifting ONT programs to the SmartChoice online ordering system at the start of the pandemic. This made huge strides in ONT’s ability to organize and efficiently distribute food through our Warehouse and Market, and to be able to pivot quickly to a curbside model when Covid-19 ceased in-person shopping.
“Lisa came in with a "can do" attitude, knowledge at a level far above our own, and was able to work with us to listen to what our needs are. She thoughtfully developed systems that responded to our needs and supplied the expertise, leadership, learning and tools to implement the systems,” Lori said of Lisa’s impact, “The time, energy and patience she has devoted to ONT have resulted in some colossal improvements to our operations - things that no one else could do - that have been an essential contribution to our ability to provide for our guests and accomplish our mission.”
Lisa says she loves “being able to help ONT achieve their mission while working with staff members as a volunteer consultant.” Lisa is continuing to help in a leadership capacity as ONT looks to improve operations and evaluate additional changes. With the new inventory system in place, different challenges have become apparent. “The Warehouse and Market are very crowded,” Lisa said, “If ONT had more space, it would allow for better flow when bringing food in and out of the building.” Efficient flow is important because easier volunteer mobility leads to better serving ONT guests.
We’re so thankful that Lisa chose to donate her time and expertise to ONT! Lisa received a bachelor’s in Elementary Education from UNH and a Master’s in Business from UMass Lowell. She retired as a global supply chain manager in 2016 after many years of supply chain work that frequently took her to different parts of Mexico to oversee operations and is currently teaching Supply Chain Management and Six Sigma classes in the graduate program at Southern New Hampshire University. Lisa has lived in the area for her whole life and currently lives in Merrimac. In her free time, Lisa likes to do remodeling projects, gardening, taking her dog, Casper, for walks, and handcrafting for numerous charitable organizations.
The holidays are upon us once again. For many, this will be a reunion of loved ones who could not gather last year. It’s a time to give thanks and treasure the little things that we can often take for granted. Smiles, laughter, and hugs are back! Every year, ONT offers all of the food to go along with these celebrations – from turkeys to pies, turnips to gravy. More than 1,000 holiday celebrations will be “catered” with food from ONT’s markets or lasagnas prepared by our Wednesday Meal chefs.
Your support of and participation in ONT’s mission is so much more than making sure your neighbor doesn’t go hungry over the holidays. ONT’s vision is for everyone in our community to be food secure all year long – that means everyone can know for certain that they will have 3 healthy meals a day, every day, always. And, together, we are making that happen.
We learned earlier this year, that the average family saves $300/month when they shop at ONT for groceries. Imagine what that $300 can mean to a family at Christmas time! Imagine what it means to a dad who can keep the heat on through the winter so his kids can sleep peacefully. Imagine what it means for a mom who has to pay for gas to get to work every day.
Today, I send my sincerest thanks to all of our community members who show up every day. To all who are packing groceries, stocking the freezer, driving our trucks, chopping onions, making phone calls or home deliveries, sending in a donation, sharing our tweets, and spreading the word – thank you! To all of you who see that, together, we are not just defending against hunger today, but building the hope and security for tomorrow – thank you and peace be with you.
ONT's Annual Breakfast Returns to Blue Ocean!
It was a rainy, blustery morning on October 26, but we were warmed by the spirit of community at ONT’s Annual Breakfast. It was wonderful to gather safely in-person with new and old friends while still broadcasting to our audience at home. Dana Marshall emceed our morning and led a conversation with Pam Kealey of Newburyport Public Schools and Tress Ricker, ONT's Food Resource Advocate, about what they are hearing from our guests and neighbors who are experiencing food insecurity first-hand. We are thankful for the chance to bring everyone together to remind ourselves of the importance of addressing food insecurity as both a social and economic condition that affects every aspect of our community. It was an honor to celebrate our 2021 Community Champions - congratulations to the Town of Salisbury (pictured above), Bill Ginivan and Clarissa Taylor. Special thanks to our sponsors and all who joined us to raise funds to provide nearly 80,000 meals to our neighbors! Read more about the Annual Breakfast ››
Food Drive Fun!
Volunteer Spotlights - Bill Ginivan & Clarissa Taylor
News & Events
Thanksgiving Recipe from ONT's Heather Paterson
ONT Community Champion Award winner Bill Ginivan has always been involved in community service. “It’s in my DNA,” he says, “My parents did it, so it’s always been part of my life.
Bill cooked for other community meals growing up in Malden and later living in Evertett. When the Ginivans moved to Amesbury, they immediately started searching for volunteer opportunities. They settled on ONT after learning of its mission and reputation in the community (Bill's wife Pam is an active volunteer with ONT's Market and guest services team). Bill has been a loyal ONT volunteer for 6 years at the Wednesday Meal, stepping up in the kitchen when our previous crews were ready to retire. He took pride in watching the guests enjoy the meal he had helped prepare.
When the meal turned to takeout during the pandemic, Bill said that the Wednesday Meal team had to “get creative with the menu” so all the guests were able to bring a delicious meal home. Throughout the pandemic, Bill has really brought his heart and soul to the Wednesday Meal. He’s been there working hand-in-hand with our staff, he provides encouragement to volunteers filling new roles. He has even donned the Big Red Suit to make sure our littlest guests still experienced the magic of Christmas.
Bill retired from a civil engineering firm where he had worked for 40 years. He loved his position as a senior designer for the company. For the past 40 years, Bill has been making lovely stained glass window hangings in his free time.
We are so grateful for Bill’s dedication to ONT’S mission and we are happy to name him as one of our Community Champions!
Clarissa Taylor, one of ONT’s 2021 Community Champions, speaks about her introduction to ONT with amusement and fondness. “My friend Murray tricked me,” she starts with a smile, “Murray asked me if I wanted to be part of the Volunteer Appreciation Committee for one meeting and one event.” It turned into significantly more than one meeting and one event, but after 9 years of volunteering, she wouldn’t change it for the world.
Clarissa has volunteered in almost every program area of ONT. Before the pandemic, she prepped in the kitchen for the Wednesday Meal and was a fixture at the Market on Saturdays greeeting guests. Her greeting of “It’s so nice to see you today!” was something every guest looked forward to and, when she went away on vacation, they noticed.
Clarissa is currently using her friendly approach to take guest orders over the phone as an Office volunteer. She loves to take the time to chat with guests before taking their orders. Clarissa recalls her most memorable moment at ONT, “A guest was so glad that I called because I am usually the only phone call she gets each week.”
Clarissa also donates her fabulous penmenship skills to ONT and chances are you’ve might have received a birthday or holiday card signed by her hand! Clarissa has lived in Amesbury for 36 years after growing up in Lawrence, Massachusetts. She was a speech therapist at Amesbury Public Schools before retiring. She loves to walk, read, travel, and watch her 5 grandchildren in her free time.
It was a rainy, blustery morning on October 26, but we were warmed by the spirit of community at ONT’s Annual Breakfast. It was wonderful to gather safely in-person with new and old friends while still broadcasting to our audience at home. Dana Marshall emceed our morning and led a conversation with Pam Kealey of Newburyport Public Schools and Tress Ricker, ONT's Food Resource Advocate, about what they are hearing from our guests and neighbors who are experiencing food insecurity first-hand. Tress and Pam shared a critical perspective of community members who are living with food insecurity every day. It is crucial for us to continue to solicit feedback to ensure we are truly meeting the needs to inform our collective work going forward.
ONT’s Executive Director Lyndsey Haight shared an update about vision for a region where universal food access is a reality and ensuring that we as a community are doing more than keeping people hunger-free. Lyndsey shared about how the creation and expansion of ONT’s state-of-the-art markets in 2016 and 18 have reached thousands of people and serve as a model to reshape community-based food safety nets across the country. Every day someone shops or dines with Our Neighbors’ Table is a day they are hunger free. And every day they know they can count on us to catch them if they fall tomorrow, if something goes wrong and even in a global pandemic – is a day they can feel food secure.
The Breakfast was also a time of celebration to recognize our 2021 Community Champions. The Town of Salisbury was honored for their partnership and commitment to food security as a social and economic issue that affects everyone in their community. Bill Ginivian and Clarissa Taylor were recognized as Community Champions for their outstanding volunteer service and leadership within the ONT community. Congratulations to all!
Special thanks to our sponsors for their generous support. By uniting together as a community, our sponsors, donors and partners made it possible to provide nearly 80,000 meals to our neighbors! The recording of the broadcast is available to watch. The live program content starts at the 50 minute mark.
By Eve Lee, Chair of Our Neighbors' Table Board of Directors
Are you looking for a new way to share your time and talents with Our Neighbors’ Table (ONT)?
The ONT Board of Directors is currently seeking new members for both the board and for several of our committees. You don’t have to have previous experience serving on a non-profit board, but that’s certainly a plus.
Prior to joining the ONT board three and a half years ago, I had been volunteering at ONT for about a year or so, and I was also a member of the Fundraising committee. The mission of ensuring food security has always resonated with me, and it’s where I have chosen to focus most of my volunteering over the past 20+ years. After quickly realizing how special the ONT community was, I knew I wanted to do more.
But, in all honesty, I wasn’t quite sure if I wanted to join another board. I had served on the board of another organization for four years, and I didn’t love it. I loved volunteering at the other place. I loved being on their fundraising committee. But, the board, eh, not so much. It wasn’t for me. The meetings felt like an extension of my already long workday. It wasn’t much fun and I didn’t feel a fulfilling connection to the mission. It felt like work.
But the Our Neighbors’ Table board is different. That’s not to say that being on the ONT board isn’t work – because it is. It’s a serious commitment. We have bi-monthly meetings and often have conference calls in between. We are expected to do our homework - whether that be reading reports, reviewing financials, or learning how to become more effective board members – and to come to meetings prepared to weigh in on important decisions. I feel like I’m an integral part of the mission to ensure that food security becomes a reality in our region. And, there’s not one board member who isn’t there for that same reason. In every board meeting, that singular mission shines through and guides all that we do.
And, like everything associated with ONT, the board is made up of the nicest group of people you could ever hope to meet. I’ve had the good fortune to get to know so many interesting, smart folks whom I might not have met otherwise. I learn something from each of them every time we meet – and I’ve made some great new friends.
But, really, the best part of serving on the board is partnering with Lyndsey Haight and the entire ONT staff. It is an honor to be able to support their vision - and the hard work that they do every day.
If you are interested in learning more about board membership – or serving on any of the various ONT committees – please reach out. I would be happy to share my experiences and answer any questions. The ONT Board is hosting a Meet & Greet on Tuesday, October 26 after the Annual Breakfast. RSVP to join us (either in-person or virtually) to chat more about the board opportunities. Hope to see you there!
By Shannon Bullen, 2020 - 2021 ONT AmeriCorps VISTA Member
What is Hunger Action Month?
Every September, the nation comes together to stand against hunger during what is known as Hunger Action Month. Originally implemented by Feeding America, Hunger Action Month is now celebrated by food banks and other food assistance organizations across the country to help spread awareness around the issues of food insecurity and hunger.
There are many different ways to take action this month (read about some here!), but one of the most important ways to take action is by educating yourself. You can use this post as a starting point in raising your awareness on hunger and food insecurity, including the list of recommended books, documentaries, and trainings. Please also consider joining ONT for “Lunch & Learn: Food Insecurity 101” via Zoom on Thursday, Sept. 30 from 12pm – 1pm. Can't make it on Thursday? RSVP for the training and we'll email the recording to you.
Hunger and Food Insecurity
In 2006 the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) report [i] included their definitions of Food Insecurity and Hunger:
“Extensive research reveals food insecurity is a complex problem. Many people do not have the resources to meet their basic needs, challenges which increase a family’s risk of food insecurity. Though food insecurity is closely related to poverty, not all people living below the poverty line experience food insecurity and people living above the poverty line can experience food insecurity.”[ii]
Hunger in the US, Massachusetts, and Your Community
Feeding America conducted the Annual Map the Meal Gap study in 2019. This interactive map allows you to see food insecurity in the United States and you can search my state, county, or food bank. Although you cannot find Our Neighbors’ Table in the search function, you can search our partner, Greater Boston Food Bank, and Essex County will be included. According to this study, there were over 500,000 food insecure people in Massachusetts in 2019. The pandemic has caused even more families to struggle. The Greater Boston Food Bank released a state-wide study that revealed that food insecurity in MA increased by 55% from 2019 to 2020.[iii] Feeding America estimates that 42 million people in the country may be food insecure due to the pandemic.[iv]
In 2020, Our Neighbors’ Table put more than 1.1 million meals on the tables of more than 5,000 neighbors.” Since 2019, ONT has served 1,615 more neighbors. You can read more about ONT’s fight for food security in our Annual Report.
If you or someone you know is struggling with food insecurity, please direct them here if there are within in our 12 communities or here if they are not. If you would like to join the efforts to create a food secure region, please read the different ways to take action here.
Recommendations to Further Your Education
[i] US Department of Agriculture, (2019). Definitions of Food Security.
[ii] Hunger + Health and Feeding America, (2021). What is Food Insecurity?
[iii] Greater Boston Food Bank, (2021). Gaps in Food Access During the COVID-19 Pandemic in Massachusetts.
[iv] Feeding America, (2021). Hunger Action Month.
CommUNITY: Stronger Together
From a small group of individuals to now engaging thousands of local residents and leaders who commit their time and resources to food security, working together is what helped us reach and sustain food security in Amesbury since 2018, it has kept food available and accessible though the pandemic, and it is precisely what will help us reach food security across our region.
Last fall, ONT secured $141,000 from the Massachusetts Food Security Infrastructure Grant on behalf of tour Seacoast Food Provider and Food Security Advisory Group partners. In the last months, our partners were able to install new refrigerators, pantry fixtures, and stoves to help them offer more fresh foods and keep up with need for services. The grant also provided food processing, refrigeration and grab-n-go cases for the Newburyport, Triton and Pentucket school districts. A new delivery van will be shared among all of the partners to help with the increased need for home deliveries.
ONT routinely surveys our guests to know if we're meeting their needs and to inform how we structure and schedule our programs. A survey of nearly 500 households revealed that we're hitting the mark!
Are we meeting their food needs? 83% say YES!
Are we creating a safe and welcoming environment? 93% say we're doing an EXCELLENT job!
Are we saving them money? YES! 52% report saving up to $50/week; 30% save up to $100/week!
Do we provide the variety, quantity and healthy food our neighbors need and want? More than 95% grade us as EXCELLENT/GOOD!
Volunteer Spotlight, Jeanne Langis
Volunteer, Jeanne Langis, has been helping out with Our Neighbors’ Table’s markets for about five years. “I heard about them (ONT) and I grew up kind of hard and I wanted to give back,” said Jeanne. Thanks to Jeanne, our Market has been stocked over the years and has made sure the Newburyport Market is also set up and ready to go. Throughout the entirety of the pandemic, Jeanne has volunteered three times a week making sure all the dry goods are packed for every guest’s grocery order. “For months and months I asked if she needed or wanted to take a day off and she always said no. She might have taken three days off since March 2020. She’s wonderful,” said Market Manager, Hannah. Jeanne has been a constant in a year filled with change. “I love the people and the idea that I’m helping people, that I’m making a contribution,” said Jeanne. Read more of Jeanne's spotlight here.
Volunteer, Jeanne Langis, has been helping out with Our Neighbors’ Table’s markets for about five years. “I heard about them (ONT) and I grew up kind of hard and I wanted to give back,” said Jeanne. Thanks to Jeanne, our Market has been stocked over the years and has made sure the Newburyport Market is also set up and ready to go. Throughout the entirety of the pandemic, Jeanne has volunteered three times a week making sure all the dry goods are packed for every guest’s grocery order. “For months and months I asked if she needed or wanted to take a day off and she always said no. She might have taken three days off since March 2020. She’s wonderful,” said Market Manager, Hannah. Jeanne has been a constant in a year filled with change. “I love the people and the idea that I’m helping people, that I’m making a contribution,” said Jeanne. When asked for a memorable moment, she said “There was this little girl. And it broke my heart. She reminded me of my grandchild. She had to ask me some things and it just broke my heart.” Jeanne has lived in the area for 45 years. She retired from working for the IRS and now has some free time. “I like to garden vegetables and flowers and I babysit for my grandchildren.” Thank you to Jeanne for all of her hard work, not only during the pandemic, but these past five years at ONT.