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Norfolk Food Pantry Is Open to All, All Year Round


By Chris Sinclair

As the cornstalks mysteriously migrate from the now flattened fields into people’s front yards, and eggnog begins appearing on the supermarket shelves in a startling array of novelty flavors, it is important to recall that the harvest cornucopia is not overflowing for everyone. While Norfolk is a beautiful and comfortable home for many and an idyllic retreat for some, Reverend Erick Olsen of the Church of Christ Congregational laments that “rural poverty is real, and it exists here.” Given this hard fact, Olsen and countless others in the community have taken it upon themselves to see to it that people can enjoy wholesome and delicious meals, not just during the harvest and holiday season but throughout the rest of the year as well.

Various community projects have been undertaken in recent years to address the issue of rural poverty here in Norfolk and in the surrounding towns, among them Norfolk NET (Networking Everyone Together), a group that encourages charitable efforts through building lasting relationships between community members of varying backgrounds and means. However, perhaps the longest standing charitable outlet in town, as it likely is in many towns across the country, is the food pantry.

The Norfolk Food Pantry, hosted by the Church of Christ Congregational, is open Tuesday through Friday between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. and most of the day on Sunday, or whenever the church is open for activities. The pantry used to be located in a room across the hall from the reverend’s office in the chapel, and individuals who were going to use the pantry would first check in with the office. The pantry has now been moved to immediately inside the chapel’s entrance. Olsen says of this change, “It was a significant shift for us to move the pantry to our chapel lobby where folks in need can simply help themselves, and I think it was a good decision that enables us to better serve the community.”

Although Olsen and the Fellowship and Missions Team at the church feel that the move has positively affected the energy surrounding the pantry and its ease of use, they are eager to improve upon the system in order to better suit the needs and desires of those who use it. To this end, Olsen urges that “if residents feel it would be better to have the pantry located somewhere else—if they would feel more comfortable using it in another location—please let me know directly, even if expressed with anonymity, so that we can keep improving what we do for the best of the community.” The food pantry as an idea and a practice may be quite old, but it is not immune to the cultural and societal changes that take place outside it, and it must adapt as all other things do.

The most common and consistent needs at the pantry are peanut butter, jelly, tuna fish, condiments (ketchup, mustard, etc.), cold breakfast cereals, granola bars, individual servings of applesauce, juice boxes and boxed mac and cheese. The Fellowship and Missions Team members check the pantry stores multiple times per week, and have placed donation boxes at the Berkshire Country Store, National Iron Bank, the Norfolk Library and Town Hall, in order to ensure a steady stream of supplies.

Although the public is generally more keenly aware of the needs of their fellow citizens during the holiday season, poverty and scarcity are not seasonal issues, and individuals who are able are encouraged to share whatever abundance they possess whenever they feel so moved, whether it be in the heat of July or in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving and Christmas. The pantry, in the spirit of the institutions that support it, is open to all who need it and is not exclusive to Norfolk residents.

Photo by Bruce Frisch: Lynn Deasy, a member of the church’s Fellowship and Missions Team, is in charge of restocking the shelves of the food pantryt, which she does several times a week.



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