Franklin Food Pantry Adapts to Meet Increased Need

J.D. O’Gara
Franklin Food Pantry now has a drive-up model to minimize contact. Shown here, volunteer Jeff Roy helps pack a client’s trunk with pre-bagged food, with the help of Franklin Police.
Issue Date: 
May, 2020
Article Body: 

Business is up at the Franklin Food Pantry.
“Typically, in a busy month, we might see 10 new individuals or families,” says Lynn Calling, Director of the Franklin Food Pantry, in early April. “In the past two weeks, over 40 new individuals and/or families have visited the pantry.”
Doors might be closed at number of businesses downtown, but the food pantry remains steadfast in its mission to serve, albeit with some changes, because of Covid-19, to its usual model of shoppers being able to enter the pantry and shop for themselves.
“We have a drive-up procedure,” says Calling. People drive into THE BLACK BOX parking lot, and masked, gloved pantry workers have pre-packaged bags set up outside, adding a few choices of protein and whatever produce they have available. Workers put items directly in the trunks of clients’ vehicles.
Calling explains that food pantry staff have been divided into two teams.
“They’re not physically interacting, just in case something happens to one of the people on the team. That way the full pantry staff doesn’t have to quarantine. Also, the Franklin Police Department has been sending their community officers as available to help with traffic control and putting filled bags in people’s trunks,” she says. The teams working on open pantry days are primarily staff, she says, but there are a handful of volunteers still helping to unload truck orders from the Greater Boston Food Bank as well as to pack backbacks for the weekend backpack program they run with Franklin Public Schools.
“Franklin High School has their own program, where they’re providing breakfast and lunches. We are providing weekend backpacks for students at the end of every week. That way they can be delivered for the weekend,” says Calling. The pantry works with school nurses at each elementary school who connect with and distribute to needy families.
The first week we were open where we changed procedures were when schools closed,” says Calling. “We had people who were participating in the free or reduced lunch programs, and we’ve seen an increase in the number of new folks coming to the pantry. I anticipate we will see that number grow as the weeks go on as people apply for unemployment. That unemployment check is less than you were taking home, and even if you’ve never been to the pantry, please come if you have a need. That’s why we’re here.”
The Franklin Food Pantry is open Tuesdays and Fridays, 9:30 a.m. -12:30 p.m. and 1:30-4 p.m. both days. People who live in the state of Massachusetts can come use the pantry once a week.
“They can just show up if they’ve never been there before,” says Calling. “We’re not taking applications right now—there’s no intake like in the past. We’ll continue this process until it’s safe for us to have folks back in the pantry.”
Calling explains that the best way to support the Franklin Food Pantry right now is through a financial donation, which can be made on the pantry’s website,
“Through our partnership with the Greater Boston Food Bank (GBFB), we are able to purchase food at a lower cost than we would if we buy at the grocery store, says Calling. The GBFB, however, is seeing an increase in need among its pantries, and donations from local partners have decreased because shelves are empty, so some food items can be useful.
“We keep an updated list on our website,” says Calling. “The community has been incredibly supportive of anything we’ve needed. I’ve called out through Facebook, and the community has responded immediately.”
So far, Calling says, “Everyone who has come to the pantry so far has been able to get what they need. We have had enough for everyone who drives through. Right now, we’re able to give people some choice, and we’re glad we are able to do that.” Pre-packed bags do sometimes contain items clients don’t need, so clients are invited to donate those items back to the pantry.
For more information and updates, visit or find the Franklin Food Pantry on Facebook.