EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

February 27, 2014

Month-long food drive seeks to restock pantry shelves

AMESBURY — Shopping carts will be popping up in banks throughout the area during the month of March as part of a neighborly endeavor to help those in need.

“The enthusiasm has been really high,” Our Neighbors’ Table board member Joan Bukoskey said of the second annual communitywide food drive that will place shopping carts and collection boxes at 23 branches of 12 different banks in the area. “The banks are very excited to be participating and to have them all coming together, working hand in hand on a project like this is really wonderful.”

Designed to keep their pantry shelves stocked throughout the spring and into the summer, Our Neighbors’ Table has partnered with Align Credit Union, Citizens Bank, Eastern Bank, the Institution for Savings, Newburyport Five Cents Savings Bank, the Provident Bank, Haverhill Bank, Louise E. Mills Federal Credit Union, Merrimac Savings Bank, RTN Federal Credit Union, St. Jean’s Credit Union and TD Bank branches to collect non-perishable food items as well as personal care products, until the end of March.

“I didn’t have to twist any arms to get people to sign up,” Bukoskey said. “I think all of these institutions really care about their community. To be part of something bigger is a wonderful approach to a community need.”

Based out of Amesbury, Our Neighbors’ Table has been serving the community and surrounding towns for more than 20 years. Since 2011, the number of households coming in for support has increased 100 percent. Last year the food bank distributed almost 500,000 pounds of food to needy families and individuals.

“People can be very embarrassed about coming to a food bank,” Bukoskey said. “We try to make it as welcoming as possible. It is very difficult for people to come in and ask for that assistance. And whenever something happens, particularly something like a harsh winter, it stretches their budget. People are taking what are already very limited resources and are putting those toward heating costs. In order to keep their homes warm, they are spending more of their budget on heating, which means either rent suffers or other utilities suffer.”

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