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Transformers Volunteer on MLK day!

temp-post-imageOn Monday, January 16th, 2017 a day nationally celebrated as Martin Luther King day, the Transformers volunteered at Pearl Street Cupboard & Cafe at Park. Pearl Street Cupboard & Cafe is a food bank which is a subdivision of United Way of Tri County (UWOTC), an organization committed to improving the lifestyle of lower income earning families in MetroWest Massachusetts.

Our assignment was to make about 150 breakfast sandwiches. Before beginning the task at hand, the President and CPO of UWOTC, Paul Mina, gave us a quick tour and oriented us in the day to day operations of the food bank.

Pearl Street Cupboard & Cafe’s mission is to provide support to families and individuals experiencing economic and personal challenges by providing food assistance and programs that promote self-sufficiency, at NO charge. They help with cooked meals, groceries and occasionally pet food, when available.

I caught up with the Director of the Pearl Street Cupboard and Cafe, Joe Mina, to chat more about how they operate. Here’s what he had to share…

Tell me a little bit about how the pantry works

Our pantry serves 4,000 Framingham families, which comes to about 22,000 people. It also serves 2,500 families in the surrounding MetroWest areas including Holliston, Ashland, Natick and Shelbourne.

The clients have scheduled visits once a month to pick up their groceries. At each visit, we have volunteers available, to act as personal shoppers in assisting clients to select their fresh produce and baked goods.

Each client is given more than a week’s worth of groceries. In the event that they run out of food and need more before their next scheduled visit, they can call us to get a referral to one of our partners such as the Boy’s and Girl’s club or SMOC (Southern Middlesex Opportunity Council), to get some more food.

Earlier, you mentioned your cafe night program. What does that entail?

Twice a night, we host a cafe night in which people can come in for a hot meal.Right now, we get about 50 to 100 clients during cafe night because of the holidays. That number will increase to about 300 however, after our formal opening. While cafe night is scheduled for Tuesdays and Thursdays, clients can also walk in on any other night of the week. Anyone with an emergency status who is referred to us will be given food.

I understand a lot of your food comes from contributors. Who are your major contributors?

Correct. The food we are able to provide is from contributions we receive. If we get a call to pick up food and we are able to get to the location, then we will. For example, this week we will be going to the air force base to pick up 20 pallets of food.

We make about 30 to 35 pick ups each day from grocery stores like BJ’s, Market Basket and Target. We also get baked goods from Panera,Brooklyn Bagels and once in a while,Starbucks. Our largest contributor is the Boston Food Bank. We get about ¾ of our food from there.

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One of the most impressive things we learned about the food bank is their commitment to providing their clients with quality food. While we worked, we were surrounded by crates of fresh produce and freshly baked goods. The Pearl Street cafe makes it a priority to only serve fresh goods. They are about the only food bank in the Massachusetts area that offers fish like Salmon and Cod, 2 to 3 times a week. They also spend a great deal of time rotating the frozen goods to ensure that the meat or fish the clients receive is fresh.

The added touch of personal shoppers when clients come to get their food is a great practice, because the clients feel taken care of. In line with ensuring those they serve are respected and have a dignified experience at Pearl Street, they do not subscribe to the model of food lines. Rather, guests are seated at round tables and the food is brought out and served to them, on proper plates, by volunteers to create the feeling of being in a restaurant. The round table serves to foster community to all who are seated, encouraging open communication and building community one bite at a time, one conversation at a time.

While a large part of the service they are able to provide would not be possible without the generous donations they receive at Pearl Street, volunteers play a huge role from serving on cafe nights, to prepping the serving stations as well as helping with bagging groceries and much more. So, if you are looking to get involved with this outstanding organization, visit their website here. Volunteers and donors are always highly encouraged, and there is always a need.

You must be wondering how we fared with our task of making sandwiches. Well, if a picture is worth a thousand words, I’ve got 2 for you!

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