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Local Food Pantries Seeing More Need, but It's Nothing Like Texas. Here's Why.

Some local food pantries are seeing a higher level of need, spurred by unemployment during the pandemic.

For the last several months, the PACE food pantry in New Bedford has been serving 1,200 families a week, compared to just 1,000 families each month before the pandemic, according to Executive Director Pam Kuechler.

“Food insecurity is a real thing right now for many, many folks,” she said. “And that's not changing quickly.”

The pantry at the Falmouth Service Center also reports an increase in households receiving groceries. The center serves up to 300 households a week.

Deputy Director Elyse DeGroot said some of the newcomers worked at two local restaurants that shut down.

“Their employees are calling us for the first time, saying, ‘I've never had to seek assistance before. How does this work?’ So that's been kind of interesting, and a bit sad and surprising,” she said.

But the region hasn’t seen the huge lines that Texas saw recently.

DeGroot said the difference is that some states use centralized locations to distribute food, whereas in Massachusetts, the Greater Boston Food Bank supplies many small pantries around the state.

Local organizations say that thanks to the Food Bank, they're able to meet the growing need.

This year, the Falmouth Service Center expanded food eligibility to anyone who needs it.

At the Family Pantry of Cape Cod, in Harwich, that staff hasn’t seen a big influx of new people. They’re serving 350 families a week, which is typical, according to Executive Director Christine Menard.

She said she wants to get the word out that the pantry is available to families who find themselves in need for the first time.

“A lot of people who are unemployed now, that might never have been unemployed, they don't really know about pantries,” she said. “And they don't know that they can come to us, and that it's really a super-simple process, and there's no documentation required during the pandemic.”

Many food pantries have relaxed or eliminated their eligibility criteria during the pandemic, and they’re encouraging anyone in need to reach out for help.