Martha’s Vineyard Commissioners unanimously approved the relocation of Island Grown Initiative’s Food Pantry to Dukes County Avenue in Oak Bluffs Thursday evening.
The food distribution program had operated out of the Portuguese-American Club for the past few years.
Space limitations triggered by an increased demand for the pantry’s services prompted Island Grown to seek a permanent and larger location, following the expiration of its lease with the Holy Ghost Association. IGI reps say it is the ideal location to better meet the needs of their registered clients, the number of which, along with food insecurity, has consistently grown since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Officials say it serves roughly 20 percent of the Island’s population
Last month, commissioners were presented with the plans for the new site, and continued the hearing until this week.
During its deliberation on the benefits and detriments of the project Thursday, commissioners noted few downsides, and agreed with commissioner Fred Hancock’s assertion that the plan is “both appropriate and essential” for the Island, as “it makes use of this largely abandoned building for such a good cause.”
In addition to helping to address food insecurity Island-wide, IGI will be repurposing an existing, underutilized building, improving the site’s stormwater plans, and providing housing for a staff member.
IGI plans on maintaining a vegetative screen on the periphery of the site, though both residential and commercial abutters have expressed support for the project, through written and oral testimony.
Concerns over the impact the operation could have on traffic in the area had been quelled by IGI, whose leaders explained that though there are more than 4,000 people registered at Island Food Pantry, some are onetime users of the service, and most are episodic. Weekly traffic would consist of roughly 300 food pickups and four box-truck deliveries, which would occur by schedule, IGI executive director Rebecca Haag said.
In a 14-0 vote, the commission approved the pantry’s relocation, conditioned upon making efforts to connect the entire site to the municipal sewer system or present a mitigation plan within the next two years.