Published: 7/12/2020 11:01:59

BERNARDSTON – Bernardston Senior Center’s “Center” food pantry is expected to continue through November, thanks to $ 4,000 in reused funding.

Selectboard and Senior Center Director Hayley Bolton held a public hearing last week with Brian McHugh, director of community development with the Franklin Regional Housing & Redevelopment Authority (HRA), to discuss the reallocation of a $ 4,000 surplus fund from Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) revolving loan funds for supports pop-up pantry.

McHugh explained Bernardston could reallocate the money to other CDBG-compliant activities – including pop-up kitchens – but a public hearing was needed to do so. The HRA is given a fixed fee of $ 500 to prepare the documents involved, hold a public hearing and transfer money to the city.

While no community members were present during the hearing last week, City Coordinator Louis Bordeaux said Selectboard received several cards and letters to support the reallocation of money.

“I think this is the use of these funds,” McHugh said.

After launching in April, Bolton said the program has become a vital service for seniors, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Pantry helps provide food safety while keeping seniors away from high-risk areas, such as grocery stores. The pop-up pantry operates as a drive-thru service, allowing seniors to remain safe in their vehicles while volunteers load food in their luggage.

“One of the main reasons we do this is that seniors don’t have to go to the grocery store,” Bolton said about monthly pantry day. “We serve an average of 80 to 90 households a month.”

According to Bolton, the first kitchen day provided around 2,000 pounds of food for 82 households. In May, 3,000 pounds of food was distributed to 90 households. Bolton said each box – filled with various canned fruits and vegetables, grains, canned protein, dairy products and snacks – was approximately enough to eat three or four days.

The Senior Center has partnered with the Amherst Survival Center and the West Massachusetts Food Bank to receive food that does not rot easily without charge. But with an additional $ 4,000, the Senior Center can increase the variety and amount of fresh products it offers. The money will be used specifically to buy fresh products and personal care items, and will allow the program to extend until November.

The agreement for the reallocation of money requires the Aging Council to provide a report to HRA about the use of money after the completion of the pop-up pantry program. To officially receive the money, Selectboard needs to do a final vote to get a $ 4,000 reallocation, and sign a letter asking for this action during the next meeting on July 15.

Zack DeLuca can be contacted at [email protected] or 413-930-4579.

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