To the Editor:
Over the past several years, a downward trend has emerged. The peak number of families (be it one or more persons) served by the Island Food Pantry was 640; this followed the 2008-10 recession. This season we had 450 families. Our peak income during our 2011-12 season was $98,075. This season it was $92,145.
There is no clear answer for the cause. More people working? Fewer immigrants?
Thankfully, the needs we were aware of were all met. Were there Islanders needing to be served, who were not because they felt ashamed or too proud to request the service, or too concerned about the needs of others to request it? No clear answer emerges. If you, reading this report, know of someone who should be benefiting from the resources of the Food Pantry, encourage them to call the coordinator at 508-696-8225.
Our pantry visits totaled 2,183 (last year, 2,240). The number of families served was 450 (last year, 475). Our income went from $97,373 to $92,145. Our expenses were down from a record of $106,007 in 2012-13 to $86,670. Except for administrative expenses for building use, phone, thank-you notes, and a desk replacement, all money was used for purchasing food or $25 gift cards, which we give once a month.
The Reverend Helen Oliver inaugurated the pantry as an outreach program of Christ United Methodist Church in 1981. In 35 years, it has expanded from a one-person effort to a ministry of more than 80 volunteers. The pantry is supported by all the faith communities on the Island, the Vineyard Committee on Hunger, by Islanders, businesses, schools, summer visitors, and organizations. It is a wonderful and effective effort of cooperation and caring. We receive no government food or funds.
In 10 out of the past 19 years, we spent more than we received. Our endowment fund covered the shortages. Money in this fund was given in memory of Kevin Kennedy, Daniel Alisio, and Sayan Kasem. Our goal is to maintain the original gift and use the growth in the endowment for income shortages or special projects, as we did in making our entryway handicapped-accessible. Hopefully, others will include the Island Food Pantry in their wills so we might meet future difficult periods for our Island neighbors. In our efforts to communicate with both English- and Portuguese-speaking friends, we have a translator present on most days we are open. Our website, islandfoodpantry.org, includes our documentary, created by Joshua Bernstein and his family.
We assisted 450 families, representing nearly 1,000 people, on the Vineyard, including at least 140 children. In addition, granola bars were provided to all the public schools for breakfast supplements. We averaged 82 visits a week.
Persons can come to the pantry once every two weeks, on Monday, Wednesday, or Friday from 2-4 pm from mid-October to mid-April. Emergencies are responded to throughout the year by appointment when people call the pantry number, 508-696-4764.
The pantry has no paid staff. All gifts provide food for the Island community. A contribution is made to the United Methodist Church of Martha’s Vineyard to help with the cost of heat, light, and garbage removal. We have an advisory board, and our books are audited each year. For the wonderful cooperation of the church and the community, I am sincerely thankful. Best of all, our volunteers have worked hard and kept a positive attitude. I am grateful to be a part of such a caring community.
Armen Hanjian, coordinator
Island Food Pantry