Main South: Centro’s food pantry … so no one goes hungry in the neighborhood!
Text and photos by Ron O’Clair
I was assigned to cover the Centro Food Pantry taste testing of peanut butter and dishes made from peanut butter held in the Food Pantry of the Centro Building at 11 Sycamore Street.
They had sent out invitations to all the local press. CECELIA/InCity TimesWorcester.org was the only news agency that sent someone to cover the story. (O.K. by me, I get an exclusive story!) This was scheduled for July 24th 2018, 10 am to 12 noon.
As you may or may not know, I am a resident of the area served by Centro Food Pantry, and as I am eligible for the assistance should I choose to participate in it, I decided seeing as how I was there I may as well get in line like everyone else and go home with more than just the story I came after.
There are many people who actually qualify for assistance who fail to use the program. Some because they manage sufficiently well without the assistance on what they live on each month, and some who are just embarrassed to be seen going to a Food Bank for whatever reason of vanity or pride prevents them from participating.
I suffer from no such delusions of grandeur, with the state of the economy being what it is it is hard to make my monthly income meet my monthly expenses. Like many other people, I find that I have to economize to ensure that I can make it each month. There is a lot I do without.
Many other people find themselves in the same situation with the high cost of living in Worcester today. Rents are high, the prices of items in the markets tend to go up higher each time I visit them.
I try to not have to participate in Food Pantry and have not actually gone to one in more than two years out of necessity. But, as I say, I was there, and I am eligible.
So here is what I received from the Centro Food Pantry:
4 ears of corn on the cob,
1 whole Pecan Pie,
2 Dozen Eggs
½ Gallon of Lite Milk,
a 2-pound bag of dried Tart Cherries,
1 16 Oz. Box of Spaghetti
1 16 Oz. Bag of Elbow Macaroni
1 7.25 Oz. Box of Macaroni & Cheese mix
1 22 FL Oz. Package of Cream of Mushroom Soup
1 10 Oz. Can of White Chicken
1 12 Oz. Can of Chunk Light Tuna in water
1 15.25 Oz. Can of Whole Kernel Corn
1 15 Oz. Can of Lite Sliced Pears
1 14.5 Oz. Can Cut Green Beans
1 15.5 Oz. Can of Red Kidney Beans
1 15 Oz. Can of Low Sodium Pasta Sauce
1 15 Oz. Can of Low Sodium Chicken Noodle Soup
1 Quart package of shelf stable Natrel 1% Low Fat Milk.
1 16 Oz. Package of American Cheese slices
1 3 Lb. Bag of Quick Cooking Rolled Oats
1 2 Lb. Bag of Enriched Long Grain Rice
1 2 Lb. Bag of Dried Lentils.
1 10 Oz. Jar of Smooth Peanut Butter.
That concludes the list of items that I took home with me from this visit to the Centro Food Pantry, included in the bags of food was a July newsletter produced by Centro that contains helpful recipe’)s and other information.
Apparently, the people using the Food Pantry at Centro, some of whom come from various parts of the world, are mystified as to what to do with some of the American foods they are not familiar with – such as Peanut Butter, which they have never seen and did not know what to do with it. So that is the reason Centro decided to put this event together as a way of showing people how they could incorporate peanut butter into meals, dessert time.
Food Pantry Coordinator Merani Alvarado realized that many of the clients did not know what to do with the Peanut Butter they receive and decided to show them how to cook with it.
The July 24th “Tasting” featured a Thai noodle Salad, three-ingredient peanut butter cookies, peanut butter hors d’oeuvres and a fruit punch from canned items in the Centro Food Pantry’s larder.
According to Centro, these taste testings and other Centro nutritional communications, such as the flyer I mentioned, are made possible through grants from Fallon Health and Project Bread.
I also received a frozen package of Tyson Chicken with nine huge drumsticks in it.
In addition to Centro, there are other places in Worcester that people who are hungry can get fed a hot meal and/or take food home with them. Chief among these are the St. Francis Xavier Food program on Temple Street on the property of St. John’s Catholic Church:
Bill Riley manages the program that serves hot meals to anyone who walks through the door, Monday – Friday from 7:00 am – 11:00 am. They serve breakfast from 7:00 am until about 9:00 am when they begin serving lunch items. So you can come for breakfast and stay for lunch if you so desire.
On Saturday from 9:00 am to 10:30 am, Bill has been operating as a Food Pantry himself, supplementing what people can only get once a month at other pantries, with weekly gifts of fruit, bread, produce, canned goods, frozen meats and whatever else he has a surplus of.
There are other Food Pantries located in strategic locations throughout Worcester that serve their areas, such as the South Worcester Neighborhood Center Food Panty on Camp Street, run by Executive Director Ron Charette. The pantry gives out food to people who live in that area and qualify for the assistance.
There is also the Mustard Seed Catholic Worker House located at 93 Piedmont St., here in the inner-city that serves hot meals, which are brought each week night to the location from a diverse group of Catholic and other denomination Churches that each take one day a month to provide a nutritious meal at no cost to those who show up for it. This church volunteerism has been a staple source of nutrition for many of Worcester’s poor for many years. All the volunteers should be praised for their selfless support of those in need these many years!
In addition to the hot meal of the day, they generally have bread and other items to give out as well.
In addition to the programs above, there are numerous congregations that serve meals one day a month at their church, like Wesley United Methodist Church. It serves its community meal on the 4th Saturday of each month.
So, if you/your family is struggling to put food on your table, please visit the agencies and churches that are there to help!