In like a lion, out like a lamb. This March marks one year since every aspect of our operation shifted to adapt to COVID-19. Frankly, we’ve had enough lion to last us for the next decade. As we head into 2021, we’ll be channeling the lion’s courage with the calmness of the lamb. We’ll be taking the creativity, flexibility, and determination to provide food to our community and delivering it with kindness and dignity that have shaped our mission for the last 29 years.
Our Annual Report will be released in the next few weeks, but here’s a sneak peak: 5,100 of our neighbors turned to ONT for food in 2020, more than 1600 of them coming for help for the first time. Families with children represented more than 57% of those new faces. But every single one of them was able to shop for the food they needed each week, thanks to our unwavering corps of volunteers, our committed staff, a supportive Board of Directors, and all of the investments that YOU have made in building ONT to create universal food access, even in a pandemic.
Not since last March, have you seen long lines at ONT’s distribution sites. Don’t confuse this calm scene with a lack of need. In fact, there are now more than 10,000 neighbors facing food insecurity. As we reach more and more people, we are committed to serving our community in a way that respects our guests’ dignity, the preciousness of their time, and the need for certainty in putting food on their tables. Our online shopping portal, convenient curbside pick-ups, take-out dinners, and friendly phone support will continue to work behind the scenes to ensure that food remains universally available to all of our neighbors. We’re going to need to continue to invest in our infrastructure to ensure we can meet the need. The establishment of our Ward J Cromer Legacy Society will help us look beyond the year ahead, to prepare us for the lions of the future. There are many things from the past year that we’d like to leave in the past, but we’ll carry forward the lessons we’ve learned, the strength of our growing community of people committed to food security, and the trust we’ve built with each of our neighbors.
Our Unity perseveres,
News & Events
Ward J Cromer Legacy Society
Last year, ONT launched our formal planned giving program, allowing donors to create a legacy that feeds the future for generations to come. This growing circle of individuals and families who have made this commitment to food security are now part of the Ward J Cromer Legacy Society. Dr. Ward J. Cromer's legacy gift in 2019 gave Our Neighbors' Table the opportunity to expand our work to create food secure communities across our region. Dr. Cromer, a a Massachusetts General Hospital psychologist and gifted teacher, had a generous spirit and passion for helping children and people around the world. His parting gift will continue to impact our neighbors and provide food security for generations to come. Dr. Cromer’s life in service to others and his vision for the impacting the future inspired ONT to name the Ward J Cromer Legacy Society in his honor.
Volunteer Spotlight - Dave and Sam Lyman
Meet the dynamic father and son duo, Dave and Sam Lyman! Jen, Dave’s wife and Sam’s mom, had attended volunteer orientation in early 2020 and introduced the rest of her family to the organization. Knowing that the pandemic was impacting so many people, Dave and Sam wanted to give back by doing something at ONT. They began volunteering together in ONT’s Warehouse, helping to ensure the Market is well-stocked and ready to go for our grocery packers. As long-time Newburyport residents, both Dave and Sam love helping to put food on their neighbors’ tables. “I like helping out and knowing that I am doing something good for the community,” Sam said. Read more about Dave and Sam in this month's Volunteer Spotlight ››
ONT's volunteers are amazing and everyone knows it!
Meeting the Need Head-On
Lyndsey Haight, Executive Director
While COVID-19 has not directly affected the physical health of most residents in our region, the economic and emotional toll has been astounding. The average unemployment rate for our 12 cities and towns over April, May and June 2020 tops 14%, compared to 2.45% one year ago. Even at the height of the recession, local unemployment average for the region in 2010 was only 7.5%.
Families who were gainfully employed only 6 months ago now rely on stimulus checks, SNAP and programs like Our Neighbors’ Table. With your support, ONT has been able to meet the need head-on and has proudly supported our partners in school districts and councils on aging across the region in working creatively and collaboratively to get food to people every day. From January 1 to July 31, ONT’s grocery programs distributed 845,000 pounds of wholesome foods to 4214 people across the region (up 11% and 24% respectively over last year).
How can we keep up with this increase of demand? Because our community is committed to ensuring everyone’s basic needs are met, even in a global crisis. You are each proving the “Unity” in Community. In just the first 90 days following the shutdown, more than 900 new donors reached out to support ONT’s work. Collectively, as local businesses were struggling, individuals in every community stepped forward and contributed a record $300,000 to keep food on the table for ONT’s guests.
“Uncertainty” seems to be the guiding principle for the near future. But there are 2 things I know for certain: 1) As this crisis continues, need for food assistance will continue to increase; and 2) ONT and its supporters will be here to respond. September is Hunger Action Month. I ask you to continue your resolve, reach out to friends and neighbors who need help, support our efforts by raising awareness, hosting virtual food drives, and, when you can, making a donation. We will continue to win this fight as we work in unity to keep our neighbors food-secure.
September is Hunger Action Month!
Join us for the Annual Breakfast Broadcast!
Volunteer Spotlight - Eve Lee
Eve Lee was not familiar with Our Neighbors’ Table when she was invited by a friend to attend ONT’s Annual Breakfast in October of 2016. “I saw all of the amazing things happening at this impactful organization and the amazing people that were involved and I was hooked,” Eve said of her first breakfast experience. She started volunteering in the Market a couple of Saturdays a month, which accommodated her travel schedule for her job in marketing at a medical device company. Soon Eve found herself on the fundraising committee, where she chaired and created ONT’s Fill ‘Em Up Fest. After joining the board in 2018, she started her term as board chair in June of this year. But her weekly volunteering in the Market remains a priority for her. Read more about Eve in this month's Volunteer Spotlight!
From the Executive Director:
As I write, our world continues to change, affecting each of us differently. Right now is really hard, for so many, for so many different reasons. But it has been a call to action for many. From whichever chair you may be reading, I’d like to use this Table Talk to give you a moment of gratitude, hopefulness, and positivity. No matter what is happening in the world, I am grateful to spend every day here at ONT with the best of humanity. ONT’s spirit is still very present, no matter what our Market or Meal might physically look like. Volunteers and guests exchange warm smiles through the windshield, over the rims of their masks; friendly conversation rings through the phones; and online ordering gives a sliver of dignity and choice in a seemingly oppressive time.
In the last 5 years, we’ve been working to raise awareness of food insecurity. Together, we’ve invested in increasing food access, reducing the shame and stigma in seeking help, and ensuring that whether you are a single elder, or a young family getting on their feet, you never had to worry about your next meal. There is no greater test of our impact than a global public health and economic crisis. So how have we done?
Schools/A+ - Every one of the school districts mobilized to distribute free breakfast and lunch to all of their students within a week of closing.
Seniors/A+ – Councils on Aging, housing authorities and elder services kept meals on wheels and grocery delivery constant, even expanding as needed.
Leadership: A+ – Mayors, town managers and social service directors put food access at the top of their planning lists on day 1.
Community – A+ – YOU have reached out to offer your time, make donations, pick up an order for your neighbor, create apps so people could find food. When it mattered most, our community has rallied to keep food on every table.
Thurgood Marshall said “The measure of a country’s greatness is it’s ability to retain compassion in crisis.” Our commitment to take care of each other in good times has made it possible for our compassion to translate into food security even in this crisis. We continue to serve those who were already struggling, and, without hesitation, have opened our programs to hundreds more who are scraping by. Please, continue to beat this drum, letting your neighbors know we are here for them. We are here for you.
And for those of you who have so generously given what you can to this mission, including the more than 700 people who gave to ONT for the very first time, thank you. This crisis will eventually end. Our new reality is still yet to be defined. Our 2019 Annual Report highlights some of our finest moments pre-COVID; let’s commit to making them the hallmark of our future.
Be safe, be well, be kind.
Coronavirus Impact by the Numbers
Volunteer Spotlight - Heather McPeake
When Heather McPeake sat in ONT’s community room for volunteer orientation in the summer of 2018, she never imagined she would be in the same room; packing grocery orders in a face mask. Heather and her daughter came to ONT because they wanted to do something together to give back to their community. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Heather found herself working from her home in Amesbury 4 days a week for a law firm. “I hadn’t volunteered for awhile and I was feeling like I wanted to do something help during the crisis,” Heather said. And help she is! Heather has answered the call and is helping in 2 crucial areas of ONT’s program operations. Read this month's Volunteer Spotlight ››
News & Updates
Virtual Food Drives
You can help stock ONT's Market safely from home by hosting a virtual food drive! Instead of collecting items in person, you'll collect financial donations that ONT will use to provide guests with fruits, vegetables, dairy, meats and toiletries.
Thank you for making food security a priority in 2019, for elevating food insecurity as a real issue in our community and for putting the investments in to address this fixable problem. Thank you for making it possible for us to serve more than 4,500 of your neighbors, providing them with fresh, wholesome foods when and where they need it. The year ahead holds ambitious goals to spread food security across our region and I hope you’ll stick with us.
The USDA defines Food Security as consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy lifestyle. Our work, to-date, has been laser-focused on:
1. Enough food. ONT’s approach leaves behind the traditional food pantry model and replaces it with the traditional grocery store model – you come in weekly, you pick out the foods you like to and can eat, and you get as much of it as you need to feed your family. In 2019, ONT distributed 1.38 million pounds of food, two-thirds of which were high quality produce, meats, fish, and dairy.
2. Food to support a healthy lifestyle. Walk into any ONT market and you will immediately notice that fresh fruits and vegetables take center-stage. Guests shopping in our markets have long told us that they want to eat more fresh foods, but they simply can’t afford it. ONT is proud to partner with more than 2 dozen local growers and community gardens to bring fresh produce to our markets. Our partnership with the Greater Boston Food Bank and local food rescue partners have ensured that every shopper has year-round access to these foods. Foods they need and want to live an active, healthy lifestyle.
Now, 2020 will be the year we focus on tying it all together with the most important factor that separates temporary relief of hunger from true food security: Consistency.
Access to food today means you’re not hungry now. Reliable, consistent access to enough, quality food every day means you are food secure. From expanding our community markets, to providing tools to our pediatricians and educators to connect people to food, to shuttles from the Salisbury and Groveland Councils on Aging to the Amesbury market, we’re breaking down barriers so people can have access to food every day.
As we work together toward the goal of a food secure region, can you help us build consistency? This year, we are seeking to build our Breakfast Club, those giving across 12-months a year, ensuring our resources are ready and available whenever our neighbors need us. Last year, the Breakfast Club grew to nearly 100 members. Our goal this year is to get to at least 150. Is this the year you can build food security into your everyday life?
We’re ready to make the promise of food security. As I personally celebrate a decade here at ONT, I’m looking forward to the possibilities our future holds.
Wishing you a happy, healthy and food secure 2020,
Get your kids involved with ONT's mission!
Did you know you can volunteer at the ONT Market with your children? ONT’s WEE Can Help! program provides a wonderful opportunity for children ages 4-10 to come in for a Market Stocking shift! WEE Can Help! volunteers perform the important task of restocking our shelves after the Market has closed on Wednesdays from 4-5pm. This is a great chance for parents to teach their children about giving back to their community in a kid-friendly space. Find out more information here!
If you’re looking for an opportunity that is suitable for both individuals and groups, consider Fill ‘Em Up Bags! The goal for each person participating in Fill ‘Em Up Bags is to raise $30, which provides dinner to a child for a whole month! Each participant decorates their Fill ‘Em Up Bag, then ask friends and family to help fill the bag. Learn more about how your child can make a difference!
If you have any questions about family opportunities, please email Melanie or call her (978) 388-1907 x21.
Volunteer Spotlight - Rose Cole
Meet Rose Cole, a volunteer who wears many different hats at Our Neighbors’ Table. Rose heard about Our Neighbors’ Table through word of mouth, and first got involved in 2015 when ONT was headquartered out of the Main Street Congregational Church. Now, Rose volunteers every Thursday at the Newburyport Market, as well as every Friday doing check-in for the Amesbury Market, and Rose serves on the Volunteer Appreciation Committee. Rose says one of her favorite things about ONT is the camaraderie among volunteers, “When there’s a volunteer who has something going on in their life-- others help out. It feels really good to be a part of that.”
Rose was key in helping to start ONT’s Newburyport Market in 2018. ONT’s Mobile Market Manager Tracy Kane says, “It took a lot to get the Newburyport Market off the ground, and more importantly to show new guests coming to it that they were welcomed and safe. Rose was extremely helpful and patient while we got all that going, helping to demonstrate ONT’s core values.” Read more about Rose in this month's Volunteer Spotlight!
News & Events
Save the Dates! Planning your 2020 calendar? Be sure to pencil in these ONT events so you don't miss them!