Canton Food Pantry Provides More Than Just Food
The Canton Food Pantry services many residents who are homeless and living in shelters, hotels or vehicles. Gift cards can often help those families in their time of need.
Mary Ellen Hudner has been working at the Canton Food Pantry for five years and already has a lifetime of stories to tell.
“People are hurting in Canton,” said Hudner, who runs the food pantry with co-director Carolann Browne and the help of about 25 volunteers. “Times are tough and they’re getting tougher.”
Hudner said the food pantry is always in need of donations of food, diapers, laundry detergent, personal care items (toothpaste, tooth brushes, soap), and other things that cannot be purchased with food stamps.
The Canton Food Pantry is located at the back of the Rodman Building of the old Canton High School, 960 Washington Street, and services about 75 people each week who take three, four or five bags of groceries each week, Hudner said.
“Some of our shoppers have no food, and no food means no food,” Hudner said. “I went to one woman’s house and the only thing in her house was a single egg in her fridge – she really had no food.”
She said there are Canton residents – many families with children -- living in shelters and motels with no access to kitchens and only able to use a microwave.
Gift cards (or donations of cash that are then used to buy gift cards) are helpful for those residents.
“We have one man who lives in his truck so whatever we have here can’t really help him that much,” Hudner said. “That’s where the gift cards come in, so he can go to Shaw’s and get a hot meal if he had to.”
“Some people don’t come in here until they’re absolutely desperate,” she said. “I wish they would come in before they get to that point so we can help them.”
Another item in high demand is laundry detergent, something that is not often donated and is seldom offered at the Greater Boston Food Bank. Hudner said the last time she saw it at the GBFB was about two years ago.
“We have a man who has cancer, he’s dying, and we help him out with gift cards,” said Hudner, taking a moment to give the man $40 in gift cards. “That’s what he’s going to do with his money, buy laundry detergent.”
Some other foods that are needed include jelly (they receive a lot of peanut butter donations but not much jelly), tuna fish, cereal, ketchup, mustard, maple syrup and cereal.
“Cereal is a big thing because it’s expensive and a lot of people don’t eat it because it costs so much,” she noted. “When we get cereal, we get generic forms of Cheerios and Corn Flakes–it’s not the same as Frosted Flakes or Fruit Loops, so it’s nice to have the variety.”
Hudner said the Post Office Food Drive, held in May every year on the Saturday before Mothers’ Day, is their biggest food drive. Canton residents are asked to set out food pantry donations at their mailbox and the postman will deliver them to the Canton Food Pantry.
“But then it’s gone in a few weeks,” Hudner said. “We are always in need of anything you can imagine – if you need it at home, we need it for our shoppers.”
General food pantry items needed at the Canton Food Pantry include coffee, toilet paper, tissues, canned meat, pasta, spaghetti sauce, peanut butter, cereal, canned fruit and vegetables, toiletries including toothbrushes and toothpaste, laundry detergent, and feminine products. A more complete list is available at www.cantonfoodpantry.com.
The food pantry is open from 9:15 a.m. to 11:15 a.m. on Tuesdays for seniors and singles; and on Wednesdays for families. Working clients can shop on the first Saturday of each month from 10:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.
Tax-deductible donations can be mailed to the Canton Area Helpline, P.O. Box 202, Canton, MA 02021.