New Normal for the Pantry Shelf

Since 1993, the Pantry Shelf has been attempting to alleviate hunger in Holliston.  With the community now in COVID 19 mode, and some residents experiencing the strains of limited resources, loss of employment, and increased health issues, the Pantry Shelf is experiencing unprecedented requests for assistance.  

On March 16, Holliston’s Pantry Shelf received a call that changed the way they operated.  Without losing a beat, the Shelf adjusted “business as usual” and went into a crisis mode of delivery. 

Now in the 8th week of this operational change, volunteers at the Pantry seem to have perfected internal and external systems to make everything work—to continue to alleviate hunger in Holliston and maintain the integrity of all privacy issues. 

Just who are these miracle workers, and how do they do it?

Holliston Pantry Shelf President Keeley Krantz with Sylvia Stickney, one of the founders at this year’s SOUPer Bowl.

Keely Krantz, President of the Board of Directors of the Pantry Shelf, explained what happened.  “We went from a choose-your-own-groceries model that gives patrons dignity and reduces waste to a pre-filled bag model.”

Bob Nemet, a Pantry Shelf Board member, prepares food for delivery.

Whereas patrons used to “shop” in the Pantry, selecting their needed items from shelves set up much like grocery stores, the March 16th call meant that volunteers and patrons could no longer maintain social distancing recommendations.  The old system ran efficiently with the help of some 130 volunteers.  That number would have to be reduced substantially. 

“With wonderful attitudes and understanding, the 130 volunteers were trimmed to a core of 9,” said Krantz.  “This was an intense shift for us and for our shoppers.”

Prior to the Coronavirus outbreak, the Pantry Shelf served approximately 80 families on a weekly basis.  As of Monday, May 4, 150 families receive groceries delivered to their homes. 

Steve Bradford, formerly the President but still a Board member, became the “inventory manager” of the internal team.  With support from Bob Nemet, a Board member as well, these two analyze needs for the Pantry, putting in hours of effort to make the new system successful. 

Karen Jewett, as well as Krantz lead the external team, managing new shoppers, tracking products received by patrons, and coordinating each and every week’s supplies.  “If, for example, hot dogs are one of the items this week, we make sure hot dog buns and beans go with the order,” Krantz explained. 

Gena Rider is a support to the external team, and she and Krantz have diverted calls from the Pantry Shelf to their homes during Governor Baker’s stay at home order.  They are in contact with both donors and those in need.  “Gena has a wonderful way of talking to people,” says Krantz. 

Dave O’Neil, Treasurer of the Board of Directors, manages the driving fleet, completing the external team.  There are 25 delivery drivers who cover 5 routes.  Now that’s a lot of organization!

Christine and Alberto Costa support the external team with bag fulfillment, ably packing all for weekly deliveries.  Aimee McDevitt and Jane Gilfoy round out the internal team, packing produce, eggs, milk, and other proteins for families. 

Where does all that food come from?  Thanks to the generosity of the community, the Pantry is, thus far, well supplied. Every few days, Krantz updates the Pantry Shelf website, adjusting needed food items.  A large bin in front of the Charles Street location continues to be used for collection. 

The Greater Boston Food Bank delivers much of the contents of a family’s bags at little to no cost to the Pantry.  Krantz estimates that 65% of the foodstuffs, including fresh produce, comes from the GBFB.  The remainder is purchased at Market Basket grocery store.  Financial donations have also increased in the past two months.  Krantz said, “We have the means to feed whoever needs help.”

If you’re wondering how you can help, check out the Pantry Shelf website here for an updated list of needed items.  If you’d like to donate financial support, that can be done on the website as well.  At this time, and because of the small facility, there is no need for volunteers.  It is possible that more drivers will be needed at a future time.

The Pantry Shelf protects each patron’s privacy.   The policy for requesting assistance has changed:  presently any Holliston resident in need who does not have a Pantry ID card or has not been registered with the Pantry can simply email or call 508.429.5392.  A delivery will be scheduled to your door.  You provide only your name, address, and phone number to verify Holliston residency.  Every call is kept confidential, and no personal information is elicited.

A recent HCAT video (with thanks to Bruce Gilfoy) provides a wonderful update of the Pantry’s adjusted processes due to the stay at home advisory.  See the video here ->

“Neighbors Helping Neighbors,” the slogan of the Pantry Shelf, has never been more accurate. 

Yvette Cain

1 Comment

  1. Jackie Dellicker on May 7, 2020 at 7:50 am

    Nice job everyone! Holliston surly is an outstanding, caring community. Hope it never changes.

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