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Brown Bag Program assisting those in need

A Brown Bag participant pulls up and retrieves her bag off groceries at the check-in table. (TINA GORMAN PHOTO)

WESTFIELD-Through the combined efforts of the Westfield Council on Aging and the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, close to 200 seniors receive a grocery bag of staples monthly, including during the COVI-19 pandemic.

Council on Aging Executive Director Tina Gorman said 200 bags were distributed April 14 by curbside pickup in the Westfield Senior Center parking lot.

“We provide about 200 free bags of groceries per month to those individuals who qualify,” said Karen Noblit, senior benefits coordinator, Westfield Council on Aging.

The Brown Bag Program is conducted on the second Tuesday of each month from 10:30 – 11:30 a.m. at the Westfield Senior Center on Noble Street.

Noblit noted that each bag consists of a variety of items, ranging from canned fruits, vegetables, peanut butter and pasta and sauce, to beans, rice, cereal, diced tomatoes or tuna.

Brown Bag Coordinator Karen Noblit gets assistance from the COA Building Maintenance Craftsman, Alex Hibert and Veterans Services Director Julie Barnes. (TINA GORMAN PHOTO)

“Lately, we have had fresh fruits such as apples, grapes and oranges or fresh vegetables such as potatoes and onions,” said Noblit.

Noblit oversees the program which has approximately 20 volunteers who help with the project.

“The volunteers have jobs that range from unloading the Food Bank truck, assembling bags, and breaking down boxes, to delivering bags to the homebound,” she said. “During the school year, we are lucky enough to have the Westfield Technical Academy allied health students here to help, which is wonderful for us and the participants as well.”

Noblit said she has seen an “uptick” in applicants during the past few years and every month she is adding three or four new participants.

Volunteer Jake Noblit assures that vehicles proceed to the table one at a time. (TINA GORMAN PHOTO)

Persons seeking to qualify for the Brown Bag Program must complete an application at the senior center or through the Food Bank.

“The income guidelines are $1,926/month for a single person and $2,607 for a couple,” said Noblit. “Participants must be at least 55 years of age or have a documented disability for which they are receiving Social Security Disability Income.”

For more information on the program, stop by the senior center or call (413) 562-6435.

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