In Oak Bluffs, Good Shepherd Parish takes the gospel message “feed my people” to heart. The parish center at 55 School St. typically hosts free food distribution twice a month, every first Tuesday and third Saturday. With the coronavirus affecting Islanders’ income, organizers are now offering distribution every Saturday, at least through April 25, from 11:30 am to 12:30 pm.
The parish’s Food Baskets-MV program has expanded to the weekly giveaways and added a new way to get the produce and proteins to the people during the pandemic: drive-up service. Director of the program, Joe Capobianco, explained how they’re arranging to get much-needed food to Islanders right now.
Folks just drive up to the parish center on School Street, stay in their cars, keep their windows up, and pop their trunks open, he said. A handful of Capobianco’s family members, all wearing gloves and masks, help him bag the groceries and place them in the car trunks. Capobianco said the parish will keep offering the service as long as the pastor, Father Michael Nagle, says they can.
“I would say that this is one of the most special privileges we have as a church, to help one another out,” Father Nagle said. “Joe has it so well organized, to be of great help with the least amount of danger to all involved.”
Good Shepherd gives the food away without questions, Capobianco added. “All we need to know is how many people are in your family . . . some people are embarrassed to fill out paperwork,” he said. That’s why Food Baskets-MV keeps the red tape to a minimum.
The need that was evident last Saturday, April 4, was extraordinary, according to organizers. “It was wonderful to see the turn out,” said Food Baskets-MV program director Janay Dlabaj.
Capobianco’s numbers were much higher last weekend. They loaded 8,000 pounds of fresh produce, milk, eggs, and frozen fish, chicken sausage, turkey sausage, strawberries, blueberries and more into waiting vehicles. That equals 489 bags to 204 cars, some snaked in a line that went all the way up to New York Avenue.
“I’ve rented a larger truck, and I pick up food in Boston for the Food Pantry on Wednesdays and on Fridays for Food Baskets-MV,” Capobianco said. “We had 70 or 80 people coming before the coronavirus; last Saturday we had 640 people.” His smaller truck holds about 4,000 pounds of food, the larger truck allows him to bring 10,000 pounds to the Island.
A lot of the people suffering from food insecurity right now will hopefully get back on their feet after the pandemic, Capobianco said.
Before the coronavirus, the parish’s food distribution included providing weekend backpacks of food for students at the Oak Bluffs School, MVRHS, and the Boys and Girls Club. These days, Kim D’Arcy from M.V. Community Services’ Family Center and Cindy Flanders, Head Start program coordinator, come to the parish center to pick up nonperishable foods every Tuesday morning. Once a month Good Shepherd provides food to the Wampanoag Women’s Center in Aquinnah, a program administered by Jennifer Randolf.
For now, Capobianco said Food Baskets-MV will keep to the weekly schedule, and they’ll revisit the situation at the end of April.
“We’ll reevaluate for May, and if we have to keep doing it, we will,” he said.
For more information on outreach ministries at Good Shepherd Parish, visit goodshepherdmv.com.