Each year, Our Neighbors' Table distributes 400,000 meals to people in need across 12 cities and towns, hosts 130 or more guests to a three-course meal every Wednesday, and engages volunteers in more than 300 hours of service every week. Food pantries were once small operations, often embedded in a church community, that provided help in emergency situations.
This isn't the case anymore. Hunger affects 1 out of every 6 people in the US and 1 out of every 16 people here on the north shore. ONT is no longer an emergency service, it's a lifeline for thousands of people - working, retired, facing illness - who can't make ends meet. Our work requires tremendous commitment and skills from our staff. "Working with individuals and families in their most vulnerable hour is a privilege, and isn't always easy. It demands patience, compassion, and creativity," states Executive Director Lyndsey Haight. "Add to that the high physicals demands and sense of organization to move a half-million pounds of food every year across a large geographic region, government reporting requirements, and the understanding of a complex socio-economic system that brings hundreds of new guests to our door every year." And now, our team is equipped to face these challenges.
Meet our newest team members!
Our Neighbors' Table is hosting its first Annual Breakfast: Eliminating Hunger One Table at a Time on Tuesday, November 10, at the Blue Ocean Event Hall. The Master of Ceremonies will be David Boudreau. David has volunteered a number of times at ONT serving meals. “It is humbling serving those less fortunate, and it makes me count my blessings. There is a tremendous and growing need that is filled by ONT, and the committed and dedicated volunteers and staff give dignity and sustenance to those in our community that need a helping hand”.
David Boudreau is Sr. Vice President of Commercial Lending at Institution for Savings. He has worked there over 9 years, and has been in the banking industry over 30 years in the Metro north area. He serves in many ways in our local communities, as a money management volunteer at Elders Services of the Merrimac Valley, on the N. Andover Scholarship Foundation board, as a Finance Committee Member of St. Michael Parish in N. Andover, and as a member of Amesbury Rotary for 8 years. He just returned from Cebu, Philippines with Rotaplast Intl, where he served as a non-medical volunteer assisting a team of doctors who completed cleft lip and palate surgeries on 104 underprivileged children. David got his BA from Boston College, and MBA from Suffolk University. He lives in N. Andover with his wife Ann, who are recent empty nesters! Two kids out of college and one to go!
Join David on Tuesday, November 10 at the Blue Ocean Event Hall. Breakfast and registration begin at 7:30am. Program to follow 8am-9am. Purchase your tickets now!
This year's Summer Lunch Program featured beautiful, fresh fruits and vegetables grown just up the road! Thanks to support from the Haas Foundation and a strong collaborative spirit, nearly 70 families (more than 200 children) brought home fresh fruit and vegetables grown at Heron Pond Farm in South Hampton. The partnership between Heron Pond and ONT brought 20 CSA half-shares, plus the 'extras' thrown in by Andre and Greg, to really boost the offerings provided to families who might otherwise be struggling during the summer months.
This partnership is not anything new at ONT. In fact, for more than 5 years, it's been the norm. Every week during the local growing season, ONT receives bushels (and sometimes truck loads) of fresh produce from growers like Heron Pond Farm, Old Stone Farm in West Newbury, or the Farm at Eastman's Corner, as well as countless personal gardeners and the school-based community gardens, like the one at Cashman Elementary School. "It's like our own little farmers market. Everything is freshly picked," shares ONT Executive Director Lyndsey Haight. "For most of our guests, fresh produce is too expensive to purchase on a regular basis. Thanks to these partnerships and our community's generosity, we can offer it to our guests every week."
From the familiar carrots and tomatoes, to the adventurous kohlrabi, guests at ONT's pantry and meal programs enjoy the best our region has to offer - YEAR-ROUND! This year, Heron Pond will be sending 30 winter CSA shares to the ONT pantry with another grant from Haas. It will be an incredible supplement to the produce we've been getting through the colder months thanks to an increasing focus on fresh produce at the Greater Boston Food Bank.
With as little as a $10 donation, ONT can provide a family with a healthy helping of fresh vegetables and fruits, a half gallon of milk, a dozen eggs, assorted dairy, healthy items like hummus and tofu, meat or fish.
"It's great to see fresh food becoming the focus of hunger relief work around the country. We started with a bit back in 2010, then, in response to our guests' requests, we really boosted the program in 2011 and don't plan to stop anytime soon," explains Haight. "Today, we spend more than 95% of our food budget on fresh foods. We work hard to engage wholesalers, retailers, local growers, and the food banks to help us get the most from every dollar. But we never sacrifice quality. If it's not something I would eat, we don't give it out."
In the last two years, ONT has also partnered with Pennies for Poverty to help leverage the pennies collected at registered across the region into gift cards to local farms like Cider Hill, Colby Farm, and Tendercrop Farm. These gift cards allow ONT's guests to shop on their own and participate in the rich agricultural traditions that have become staples in our local culture.
If you'd like to learn more about contributing fresh, local produce to our programs, contact ONT Pantry Director Lori Townsend.