As the fiscal books close on June 30 for the Westfield Food Pantry, Executive Director Rebecca Hart sent out an urgent plea on Facebook this past weekend that monetary donations are needed to make up a shortfall of $10,000.
“The biggest reason for our shortfall is the loss of corporate donations due to a change in the tax code,” said Hart. “Since President Trump’s critical change to charitable giving was made, our donations have not been the same.”
Hart added that for corporations and individuals, there is “less incentive to give.”
In addition to a drop in charitable donations, Hart said an “unseen expense” this past year also drastically impacted the bottom line.
“We have a walk-in refrigerator that needed a repair costing $4,500,” said Hart.
Hart noted the repair was imperative to the pantry’s ability to store fresh produce as well as critical donations of fresh foods from supermarkets and restaurants.
“We pride ourselves on being a lean organization so we feel any loss,” she added.
As Hart reviews statistics, she notes that the pantry is serving 1,250 individuals each month, with 52% being children and 13% representing the senior community.
“We have seen the largest change in providing services in the past three years,” said Hart. “People who are working are still struggling to feed their families.”
Like any household budget, Hart is diligent in watching costs and making the most of the available resources. The basic expenses for the Westfield Food Pantry run the gamut from liability insurance and the building’s rent, to basic utilities including electric, phone and Internet services. Hart added that she has part-time staff which includes her 20-hour position overseeing the pantry’s operations.
“Our connectivity services are critical for the operation,” said Hart, adding that the pantry’s waste management fees have also increased 200%.
Hart stressed that all of the food that is collected – which she is enormously grateful for – also needs to be “managed.”
“The logistics for handling all of the ways that we receive food is vast,” said Hart. “We are also fortunate to have volunteers who not only work behind the scenes organizing and checking the food that is received, but also we have volunteers who go into the community to pick up donations.”
As Hart looks to 2020’s budget, she has already been informed that HUD (Housing and Urban Development) federal funding will be $1,400 less than FY ’19.
“The HUD funding has always helped to cover some of the rent and utilities,” said Hart, adding, “it was our only stable source of income.”
Hart added that a $1,000 deficit “here and there” can make a tight budget even more challenging.
“We are the largest feeding program in Westfield,” said Hart. “When we lose a $1,000 here and a $1,000 there, that makes us question our sustainability.”
For area residents who wish to make a donation to the Westfield Food Pantry, checks or cash can be dropped off during office hours – Monday, Tuesday and Friday from 9:30 a.m. – noon, or Thursday from 5 – 6:30 p.m. The office is located at 101 Meadow St. Donations can also be mailed to Westfield Food Pantry, 101 Meadow St., Westfield, MA 01085. Also, area residents can make a donation through the pantry’s website – www.westfieldfoodpantry.org – via the PayPal link.
“We also encourage employees to ask if their employers offer corporate matches for charities,” said Hart noting that avenue can leverage the money received. “Please consider donating to the Westfield Food Pantry so that we can continue providing food for our neighbors in need.”