Hebron Food Pantry

Michelle Burch, director of the Hebron Food Pantry on Sanford Street in Attleboro, says a donation last week from Morin’s came none too soon.

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ATTLEBORO — It would seem to be a natural match.

Restaurants, now limited to just takeout menus due to fears of the coronavirus, face having a large surplus of food that could spoil if not used.

Area food banks and soup kitchens face an influx of folks, who have been laid off from their jobs due to that same virus, needing food.

The mayor of Providence, Jorger Elorza, for example, last week urged restaurants in his city to donate food to an organization that matched donations to organizations that serve the needy.

In Massachusetts, getting the two together can be complicated, however.

Morin’s Restaurant, the diner in the center of the city that has been a gathering spot for more than a century, was able to match up the two needs last week.

John Morin, the fourth generation of his family to manage the local eatery, began its takeout-only service on Tuesday. Morin says he was able to make a contribution to the Hebron Food Pantry, which operates three food banks in the Greater Attleboro area.

“There was a lot of bread and stuff that was not going to make it, bread and meat and fresh vegetables,” Morin said.

He said state Rep. Jim Hawkins, D-Attleboro, put him in touch with the local pantry.

“There will probably be more, anything we are not going to use in the foreseeable future,” Morin said.

According to Michelle Burch, the pantry director, the donation comes none too soon.

“We are going through stuff,” she said.

While normally the food banks allow people to shop for what they need, now, with gatherings limited as to number, the pantries are making up food bags for distribution.

“I just put a jar of peanut butter in 200 bags,” Burch said.

They were to be distributed in the YMCA parking lot near downtown.

“We can use everything — pastas, tuna, peanut butter, all the canned vegetables and soups,” she said.

Besides the donation from Morin’s, the pantry also received a contribution from the food service company that provides meals to now-closed Attleboro High School. It will all be needed for a growing list of clients.

“I had 25 new families,” she said last Thursday, “I anticipate tonight I’ll get more.”

Hawkins said that this area is in better shape than some other parts of the state.

“I think we are ahead of curve because of the Attleboro Interfaith Council” and its role in coordinating food collection and distribution, he said. “Michelle does an unbelievable job. Attleboro is very lucky, well, better off than some.”

The state encourages food establishments to donate surpluses. Alan Perry, city health agent, said the rules are fairly straightforward. “Most food can be donated, the general guidelines are that it has to be wholesome and has to be handled accordingly. It can go to a soup kitchen or a pantry or charity,” he noted. “The food bank has to be able to handle it and store it properly.”

The U.S. Food and Drug administration and state Department of Public Health websites can provide guidance, he said.

In addition, the organization Recycling Works in Massachusetts, a program founded by the state Department of Environmental Protection, has worked with state and local health departments on a food donation guide. It can be found at recyclingworksma.com/donate.

Tom Reilly is a Sun Chronicle news editor. He can be reached at 508-236-0332 or treilly@thesunchronicle.com. Follow him on Twitter @Tomreillynews

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