By Sen. Julian Cyr & Andrea Marczely
The COVID-19 pandemic upended the table that so many Cape Codders had neatly laid their lives upon. The cost of living on Cape Cod was already high, and many year-round residents were cobbling together their finances with a handful of jobs. With so many in-person industries crippled by the pandemic, budgets are stretched thinner and thinner, leaving many families food insecure.
Food insecure families and individuals are those who don't reliably know where their next meal will come from. According to the Greater Boston Food Bank, which services the Cape & Islands food pantries, Barnstable County is expected to see a 70% increase in food insecurity among residents in 2020 over 2019. This has enormous consequences for children, who are statistically more likely to experience learning and behavioral complications that can follow them into adulthood. In other words, the pain can be permanent.
Cape Cod has a network of food pantries that have risen to meet the challenges of feeding those who are newly food insecure. According to Christine Menard, who serves as the Executive Director of the Family Pantry of Cape Cod, many newly laid-off workers have never experienced food insecurity and aren't used to relying on food pantries for help. Even with a steady stream of supplies to meet the demand, the biggest challenge of running a food pantry during the COVID-19 pandemic is connecting would-be clients with our pantries.
To that end, Cape Cod food pantries have lowered the hurdles to becoming a client, helping them circulate the thousands of pounds of food that moves through their facilities each week. However, leaders at the pantries have made it clear that word-of-mouth is still what connects struggling families and workers to the resources that they need.
The severity of this crisis is a community need requiring a community solution. If you need food or know someone who does, please see the list of food resources at the Barnstable County Department of Human Services website or email firstname.lastname@example.org. There are many resources available, whether you may require a bag of groceries for a short-term gap or a more sustained need. If you find you have extra resources to help with this initiative, please consider making a monetary donation directly to a local food pantry.
State Senator Julian Cyr represents Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard, and Nantucket in the Massachusetts State Senate and serves on the Joint Committee on Public Health. Andrea Marczely serves as Food Access Coordinator for the Cape Cod Cooperative Extension, a division of the Barnstable County Regional Government.