By Max Bowenfirstname.lastname@example.org
In a normal, non-COVID year, the Food n’ Friends program hands out between 21,000 and 26,000 meals to families in the greater Attleboro area.
Since COVID-19 hit in mid-March, the organization has distributed more than 22,000, equaling a yearly total in just seven months. Pamela Tarallo, administrator for the program, said that the need has gone up tremendously, but they’ve been able to meet it.
“We have tremendous volunteers,” said Tarallo.
Word of mouth has been a powerful ally in handling the increase, said Tarallo. She said the volunteers go wherever they are needed, usually to pack the meals and bring them to churches in Attleboro, North Attleborough, and Mansfield, where the are given out six days a week. The Greater Boston Food Bank has been a strong supporter of the program, and donations have continued since the pandemic started.
“We’ve managed to keep up,” said Tarallo.
A part of the Attleboro Area Interfaith Collaborative, Food N’ Friends has been around for 25 years, serving meals to residents in Attleboro, North Attleborough, Seekonk, Norton, Central Falls, and Pawtucket. It is one of the emergency food and homeless prevention programs run under the auspices of the Collaborative.
Prior to the pandemic, meals would be served in a sit-down fashion, allowing people to meet new faces or see old friends. But with the COVID-19 guidelines, this has switched to a pick-up service.
Brother Roger Moreau prepares the meals in the kitchen of National Shrine of Our Lady of La Salette in Attleboro—one of three kitchens used for the program—and remarked at how the tables in the cafeteria used to be filled with people when the meals were ready. As he put the finishing touches on vegetable lasagna and fried chicken, he laid out the aluminum containers for packing in the silent cafeteria.
Tarallo said that many new faces have become regulars at the program, including those without a place to call home. Those who wish to get a meal through Food N’ Friends don’t need to provide any information—no names, income level, no questions asked.
“There are people we never knew prior to COVID that are coming around [for meals],” she said.
For more information on Food n’ Friends, visit attleboroareainterfaithcollaborative.org/tag/food-n-friends/.