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.
July 19 - 24 is ONT SNAP Awareness Week!
SNAP is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as "EBT" or "Food Stamps." SNAP puts money for food in people's pockets, that can then be used at local grocery stores and farms to buy food they may not be able to get at ONT. SNAP is a critical resource for ending hunger in our communities. Over 700,000 low-income Massachusetts residents receiving MassHealth are likely SNAP eligible but are not currently enrolled. This is The SNAP Gap.
You can be part of the solution:
1. Become a SNAP Ambassador. You can initiate conversation about SNAP with your network and educate fellow community members about SNAP. By raising awareness, you can tackle applicant reluctance and create social acceptance of people getting the help they need. Don' t have enough info about SNAP? Sign-up for a SNAP Training! "Understanding the Value of SNAP" will be held on Tuesday, July 20 at 5:30pm via zoom. RSVP to attend or to get the recording sent to you.
2. Support the Common Application, which would ease the process for individuals and families by allowing them to apply for multiple federal safety net programs at the same time. Senate Bill 761 and House Bill 1290 would create the Common Application. Sign-on to ONT's letter or use this template to send a letter to your state government officials to champion the Common Application.
3. Connect someone with SNAP. ONT makes applying to SNAP easy. Schedule a SNAP appointment online, or call 978-388-1907 x18 to speak with Tress Ricker, ONT Food Resource Advocate. If you or someone you know has questions about qualifying for SNAP or about recertifying for SNAP, Tress is available to help.
Read more about SNAP in Executive Director, Lyndsey Haight's letter to the editor for the Newburyport Daily News here.
SNAP changes lives. Advocate for SNAP. Promote change.
Letter to the Editor,
Leaving money on the table
A June 30 editorial article brought much needed attention to the opportunities for Massachusetts residents to access the state’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, often referred to as “food stamps”) to access locally grown produce. The Healthy Incentive Program (HIP) essentially doubles the value of every dollar in a household’s SNAP account when they use those funds to purchase fresh produce at a participating farm or retailer.
It’s wonderful that our legislature continues to invest in this program, and it’s terrific to see the bipartisan support at the state and federal level to increase SNAP subsidies to keep pace with the cost of food. But all these efforts are in vain if people are not applying to use the program. Underutilization of SNAP is one of the greatest barriers to reaching food security across our region.
In the greater Newburyport area, 52% of people eligible to use SNAP are not enrolled (60% in Newburyport; 70% in West Newbury). Why not? A recent study by Greater Boston Food Bank shows that a strong desire to be self-sufficient, lack of information on eligibility or how to apply, and fear of being shamed if seen using the program are the top reasons people say they’re not applying.
Most people enrolled in SNAP are working, recently unemployed or retired, meaning they have contributed their own taxes to invest in this safety net to catch them when crisis hits. If you had your own savings account and lost your job, you would certainly dip into your savings. People should feel no different about accessing SNAP, nor should we make anyone feel shame about applying for such a program. Years of research shows that SNAP is THE most cost-effective way to keep people, especially children, out of poverty. It also consistently has THE lowest rate of fraud of any government program ever. What’s more, in a time of national economic crisis, every SNAP dollar you spend, generates $1.50 in local economic activity. You’re not just keeping your family afloat, you’re creating and sustaining jobs, businesses and local farmers. Let’s get rid of this stigma and stereotype that people using SNAP are a bunch of “free-loaders”.
So how do people apply? It’s getting easier than ever. In fact, Our Neighbors’ Table, Pettengill House and the Salisbury and Merrimac Councils on Aging are licensed SNAP Outreach partners where you can process your application through us and receive ongoing support through the process. To book an appointment at ONT (available in 200+ languages), go to ourneighborstable.org/SNAP. If you’re applying for MassHealth, as of July 1, 2021, the paper application has a box to check so your application will also screen you for SNAP – a huge achievement in our battle to close the SNAP Gap on Beacon Hill!
We’ve learned that food secure communities require all of us to pitch in. July 19-24 is SNAP Awareness Week. Join a training to become a SNAP ambassador or just to learn more, ourneighborstable.org/SNAP and click “Close the SNAP Gap”. We hope you’ll join us in raising awareness, creating social acceptance of people getting the help they need, and building your own toolbox to close the SNAP Gap!
Lyndsey Haight, Executive Director
Our Neighbors’ Table