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Farms, food pantries share in $4.7M food security grants; Reed Farm in Sunderland among recipients

SPRINGFIELD — All Nations Church Food Pantry used to help 150 to 170 families a month with needed groceries, said Doyle St. Louis, pastor of the church and director of its food pantry program.

After COVID-19 damaged the economy and employment prospects, the pantry started seeing as many as 400 families a month.

“Since the pandemic started, we’ve seen a marked increase in the number of people who are in need of assistance,” he said by phone Tuesday.

The state announced $87,446 in grant funding Tuesday that will allow the church to move the pantry into its new, larger Leete Street facility, having vacated a smaller facility — and suspended the food pantry — in September.

The funding is for renovations and equipment that includes refrigerators and freezers, electrical service upgrades and plumbing services, according to the state news release.

St. Louis said his team has already started some work on the new pantry space and he hopes to have it open in January or February.

The grant was part of $4.7 million in funding announced Tuesday, a list that includes $495,760 for Reed Farm in Sunderland and grants for other area farms.

It’s the fifth round of the new $36 million Food Security Infrastructure Grant Program, created earlier this year following recommendations from the state COVID-19 Command Center’s Food Security Task Force, which promotes ongoing efforts to ensure that individuals and families throughout the state have access to healthy, local food, according to the news release.

The announcement was made at the Melnea A. Cass Recreational Complex in Boston Tuesday.

“As Massachusetts residents celebrate Thanksgiving this week, we recognize that food insecurity remains a significant challenge for many families throughout the Commonwealth, making our efforts to secure a resilient, diverse local food supply chain even more critical,” said Gov. Charlie Baker. “Through a $56 million investment through our Food Security Task Force, our Administration is committed to investing in our local food infrastructure and ensuring a secure supply of food, which will enable us to ensure that families throughout Massachusetts can access local, nutritious food as they continue to meet the challenges created by the pandemic.”

Other local recipients announced Tuesday are:

  • Reed Farm, Sunderland: $495,760. The farm will make significant upgrades to its existing poultry facility. They include the design and installation of a new septic system, a walk-in cooler and freezer and a generator.
  • Diemand Egg Farm Inc., Wendell: $121,850. The farm will increase storage capacity by purchasing a new commercial walk-in freezer. With the new refrigeration equipment, perishable products will be more widely available.
  • Chicopee Public Schools Food Service Department: $153,300. The city will buy a food truck to deliver meals to both in-person and remote students.
  • The Gray House Inc., Springfield: $45,514. Funding will help the food pantry make infrastructure improvements to increase food storage and distribution. New equipment includes food carts, a freezer and a computer.
  • Double C Ranch, Granby: $40,748. The grant will help stabilize the beef supply by assisting the ranch with the installation of a walk-in freezer for additional storage and the purchase of a refrigerated vehicle to increase product delivery.
  • Park Hill Orchard, Easthampton: $36,890. The money will assist with the purchase of an insulated cargo van to distribute fresh and shelf-stable fruit products via farmers markets, roadside stands, pantries and direct delivery.
  • Book and Plow Farm, Amherst: $24,500. The farm will buy a shipping container to store produce.
  • Hart Farm, Conway: $10,538. The grant pays for a walk-in cooler to increase product storage and preservation, allowing for better food distribution.
  • Julia Coffey, Mycoterra Farm, South Deerfield: $3,200. The grant covers Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) equipment so the farm can expand the availability of its products to low-income individuals and families.
  • Great Falls Farmers Market, Turners Falls: $1,150. The market will buy equipment for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program/EBT payments to expand the availability of products to low-income individuals and families.