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.
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 she wanted to give back her community and do something meaningful with her teenage daughter. The two enjoyed volunteering together stocking shelves in the Market.
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. On Wednesdays, she helps pre-pack the dry goods for the Newburyport pick-up orders. Heather she loves the organization of checking off the packing list and making sure the guest gets everything they ordered.
Heather is also part of our remote support team, helping guest with their customized grocery orders over the phone if they don’t have internet access to place their order. “I love talking to the guests on the phone,” she said. “Everyone is so nice, you can tell how appreciative they are for ONT.” Despite the programmatic changes, Heather says that the ONT atmosphere is still the same. She loves the team spirit and working side by side (from a safe distance!) with her neighbors to help each other.
Heather and her husband have called Amesbury home for 15 years. When not at ONT, she loves to cook, do yoga and go for nature walks with her 15-year-old daughter. If you see her out walking her yorkie, Elsie, be sure to wave hello!
ONT's Mobile Market Manager Tracy Kane attended the 2017 National Anti-Hunger Policy Conference in March.
ONT's work is directly impacted by legislation at the state and federal level. From funding for food banks to purchase food, to the safety net that our community members rely on when they can't earn enough to pay the bills, strong policies and programs are important to make sure no one in our community is going hungry. Sunday March 4 – Monday March 5th of Conference (Days 1 and 2):
Over a breakfast meeting, I eagerly joined some of my fellow constituents from The North Shore Hunger Network (NSHN). The NSHN is a coalition of hunger-relief organizations, who by joining forces, are dedicated to serving Boston’s North Shore efforts in building food security. Accompanying me this year in representing the NSHN at F.R.A.C., were my peers from Beverly Boot Strap’s and Gloucester’s Open Door.
As I looked around the conference I was inspired to be under the same roof with over 1,300 people who were all fighting for the same cause. There were representatives from all avenues of the anti-hunger effort – be it on the front lines as case workers or individuals running Food Pantries, Mobile Markets and Food Banks to those behind the scenes working as legal advisors, advocates or policy lobbyists. We were all soldiers working for the people, all woven with the same thread and united by a common goal to learn new and better ways to help more people.
Throughout the first two days of the conference I took a total of 6 different workshops on topics including partnering with health care providers, the effects of the economy and policy on food insecurity, addressing the needs of a growing aging population, and how to work with legislators on policies to support food security.
Hill Day, March 6:
As an attendee of the conference, I had the opportunity to join peers from across the country for Hunger on the Hill Day. The North Shore Hunger Network met with representatives from Senators Markey and Warren's offices. Our visits focused on strengthening the security net of SNAP, Child and Senior Nutrition Programs and Emergency Food Assistance Programs - all of which are critical parts of keeping people in our region fed each day.
I had a wealth of prepared reports, statistics, and information about the programs at ONT and the people we serve. But, most importantly, I wanted to share the stories of ONT's guests - constituents who are represented by our Representatives and Senators in Washington, DC.
Kate*, a single working mom comes regularly to our market. She told us that before she started coming to ONT she would feel “sick to her stomach” as she watched her daughter open the refrigerator door only to find it “empty - with nothing but a bright light shining back at her”. Now she shops with us and her daughter has plenty of food.
ONT is serving many more elderly guests. A few weeks ago, while I loaded her bags of groceries into her car, Nancy* felt the need to explain to me why she was shopping with us. She explained that she used to work two jobs, but then she fell and broke her hip, a year later she lost her husband to cancer, a year after that she lost her home - and now here she is – struggling without enough food and shopping in our market.
I closed my meeting with the representatives, and reflected for myself: the faces of the hungry look just like the faces of all of our neighbors. The two guests whose stories I shared were so appreciative of ONT and have expressed that simply being able to put food on their tables has changed their lives in incomprehensible ways.
Our Neighbors’ Table’s grocery programs remain open in the curbside pick-up. Our priority is and will continue to be ensuring people have consistent, reliable access to food as safely as possible.
ONT shifted to an entirely curbside model for grocery distribution on March 2020 and will remain operating in the curbside pick-up model for the foreseeable future. Guests can pre-order groceries online and schedule the time to pick-up. If you cannot order online, please call 978-388-1907 to place your order. Groceries will be delivered directly to your car during your scheduled pick-up time. If you cannot leave your house, please have someone pick up for you. If you need delivery, please call 978-388-1907.
Ordering is for next day pick-up. We're sorry but we cannot process same-day pick-ups. Please place your order by 3:00pm the day before you want to pick it up. New guests must fill out a guest registration form before ordering and allow 24 hours for processing.
Curbside pick-up will be available at the following locations.
Amesbury Market - Our Neighbors' Table, 194 Main Street
Wednesday Meal - Main Street Congregational Church, 145 Main Street, Amesbury
In addition to ONT's programs, we are maintaining an updated list of food resources across the region. You can view this list online or download a copy to your computer. Remember to check back regularly as things continue to change.
To do our part to minimize risk of infection and to allay fears of exposure in our community, ONT is taking the following steps:
How can you help?
Lyndsey Haight, Executive Director, x11
Lori Townsend, Program Director, x12
None of us could have dreamed of the reality we all face today. Without notice, our schools had to close, local businesses had to be shuttered, and life seemed to turn completely upside down.
In the last 2 weeks, I've spoken to longtime ONT volunteers who are afraid to leave their homes; a mother who, along with her husband, has just lost her job and is worried about keeping it together for their 2 children; a woman who was supposed to start her job as a census worker and now has no income to pay her rent; a retired veteran who lives alone, with no children, who is glad he can come to ONT, even if it's just pulling up in his car, to see some friendly faces.
These conversations remind me that Our Neighbors' Table is more than just the food on our shelves, ONT has always been a source of community and connectedness. Something we are all craving right now. My late grandmother always had a fondness for lighthouses. In these stormy times, I want you to know ONT is here to be a beacon of hope and light. All of our work over the last 28 years has prepared us to be a lighthouse for our community.
And now, I need to ask everyone who can, to pitch in. If you can give $10, give $10. If you can give $1,000 or more, now is the time. Join our Breakfast Club to make your donation in monthly installments.
Our priority is and will continue to be ensuring people have consistent, reliable access to food, and, as always, to do it with kindness. To do this we have had to completely change our program operations to keep our guests healthy and safe. After spending 4 years growing our markets, this week we had to close their doors and shift to an exclusively curbside model with very little preparation time.
Here’s a glimpse of what that change has meant in 1 week:
These last two weeks were hard, but now the real work begins. Now we will be serving a surge of new neighbors who face economic uncertainty in the coming weeks and months. In addition to the 600 households we were already serving each week, we've already registered 65 new households (with nearly 200 mouths to feed) just since March 16.
Our neighbors are counting on ONT when they have nowhere else to turn. Are you in a position to help? Every dollar matters, please give what you can.
Be well and take care,
With spring fast approaching (hopefully!), Our Neighbors' Table is looking to our annual tradition of giving out Easter baskets filled with toys and candy to our families with children. It's a small touch that brings a lot of happiness to children (and their parents) this time of year.
But in order to make it happen, we need YOUR help! There are 2 ways to help, by giving time and/or items for the baskets.
1. Fill a Child’s Easter Basket
2. Volunteer to help assemble Easter Baskets – KID FRIENDLY!
Thank you in advance for your help in bringing Easter joy to our local children and families this spring!
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!
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. A few years later, Rose retired from her work doing bookkeeping and she began volunteering more regularly at ONT’s brand new location at the Jardis-Taylor Center. 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.” Rose has helped with hosting the last two year’s Volunteer Appreciation BBQs in June. Rose says “I like to think about what other volunteers do, and how to honor them.”
When Rose isn’t at ONT, she likes to garden and get lunch with her girlfriends. Rose and her husband spend about a month in Florida in February or March each year. Rose has been treasurer for the last five years of a group called “Amesbury for Africa” which partners with a village in Kenya. Rose has visited Esabalu, Kenya twice.
Next time you’re at ONT on a Friday morning, say hi to Rose!
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! Young volunteers perform the important task of restocking our shelves 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.
The program is limited to ensure the best experience for every volunteer. All children must be accompanied by an adult that has attended volunteer orientation prior to coming in for a shift. If you have not attended an orientation yet but would like to, please fill out an online volunteer application here. WEE Can Help! is ideal for individual families rather than large groups.
If you’re looking for an opportunity that is suitable for both individuals and groups, consider Fill ‘Em Up Bags! All are welcome to participate in this program at any age, whether they’ve been through orientation or not.
The goal for each person participating in Fill ‘Em Up Bags is to raise $30. This would provide dinner to a child for a whole month! Each participant will decorate their Fill ‘Em Up Bag, then ask friends and family to help fill the bag. No donation is too small. $1 or $10, every donation counts! (Please do not collect food items. Checks made out to Our Neighbors’ Table also accepted.)
Ready to get started? Download the Fill ‘Em Up Bag logo, color it, and attach it to the bag (brown bag, grocery bag, gift bag, etc.). Once you’re finished fundraising, contact Melanie to arrange a time to drop-off. We’d love to give your kids a tour so they can see the impact of their donations!
If you have any questions about any of the above, please don’t hesitate to email Melanie or call (978) 388-1907 x. 21.
Imagine a community where every child starts the school day with a nutritious breakfast, where their bodies and minds are nourished and their hearts are raised up by the village around them. The truth right now is that 1 out of 8 children in our region live in a food-insecure home. Their parents are struggling to make ends meet, trading heating bills for groceries or gas to get to work. And every day, our children are thinking about being hungry instead of focusing on learning.
Hunger feels like an insurmountable problem, but we’ve seen the difference we are making. This year’s Annual Breakfast gave us a glimpse into the future. We heard from Josh and Jill, who both turned to ONT – Josh as a teenager living on his own, Jill as a single mom seeking a better future for her sons – and who are now flourishing and paying it forward. We learned from their stories that it wasn’t easy to ask for help. But what a lesson it was for us to witness Jill sharing her experience with Dr. Lars Lundgren from Children’s Health Care. Fifteen years ago, Dr. Lundgren was Jill’s family pediatrician. Today, Dr. Lundgren is leading his practice as a Medical Home, partnering with ONT to integrate food security into health care.
ONT is excited about the new partnership with Children’s Health Care. Seeded with a 3-year grant from the Mary Alice Arakelian Foundation, this partnership gives families like Jill’s a trusted partner in their pediatrician where they can work together to connect the whole family with ONT’s programs. This is a growing practice in health care and ONT is proud to be leading the way.
Today, we don’t have to just imagine a community where every child is fed. We’ve created that here in Amesbury. Through our growing partnerships and by sharing our stories, we will soon have a food secure region. As we enter this holiday season, give thanks to those around us. Your local businesses, your elected officials, your teachers, your girl and boy scouts, your friends, and your neighbors. I thank you for being so bold to make this imagined place a real place right here.
ONT Now a SNAP Outreach Partner
SNAP is a monthly allowance provided so that you can purchase your groceries in any local grocery store. The money is put on a special card that works just like a debit card and is accepted at all of the local grocery store chains. ONT is now a SNAP Outreach Partner so you can process your SNAP applications and recertifications right in our Amesbury office! Our Food Resource Advocate Tress Ricker is new to our team but has many years of experience to help you navigate the often confusing process. To schedule a time with Tress for help with SNAP, please call 978-388-1907 x18 or pop into the intake office during Market hours. Read more about SNAP and ONT's partnership here.
News & Events
Check out the complete list of events, hours and holiday programming!
Thank you to our 2019 Great Neighbors!