Volunteers prepare meals for the growing number of needy families

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Veronica Clark, kitchen coordinator at First Baptist Church, prepares meals on Wednesday, Dec. 23, as part of the Food n' Friends program. A group of volunteers meets each week to make meals that are given to hundreds of needy families in the North Attleborough area. Staff Photo/Max Bowen

Deacon Richard Dufaulk [left] and Adam Scanlon begin to put food into aluminum plates to be delivered to the VFW in Attleboro on Wednesday, Dec. 23. Staff Photo/Max Bowen
By Max Bowen-max.bowen@northstarreporter.com

As some gather for opulent meals this holiday season, a growing number of families in the North Attleborough area are relying on charitable services to keep food on the table.

At First Baptist Church, volunteers gather every Wednesday to prepare meals as part of the Food n’ Friends program, run by the Attleboro Area Interfaith Collaborative [AAIC]. The church is one of many sites preparing meals that are in turn delivered to pickup sites, such as the VFW hall in Attleboro. Julie Boyce, a member of the AAIC board of directors, said the program normally gives out 260 meals a day.

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, this has risen to over 1,000 meals a day. In a normal, non-COVID year, the program hands out between 21,000 and 26,000 meals. Since mid-March, the organization has distributed more than 22,000.

It’s taken some getting used to,” said Boyce, of the increased need.

Julie Boyce [left] and Adrianna Clark assemble the meals that are brought to the VFW in Attleboro. Boyce also delivers meals to families in North Attleborough. Staff Photo/Max Bowen
Food that is used for the meals comes from a variety of sources, including the Greater Boston Food Bank. Donations from businesses such as Freihofers Baking Company and Bimbo Bakeries help supplement this.

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 AAIC.

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.

Adrianna Clark is an administrator at Food n’ Friends who also runs the Resource Junction, which provides services including emergency cash assistance. She said the meals include a Blessing Bag, which includes toiletries, a face mask, hand sanitizer, and other necessities. The bags are organized by MOKIES [Moms Of Kids In Every School], a group of active mothers focused on the North Attleborough community.

The community has been very helpful,” said Clark.

For more information on Food n’ Friends, visit www.attleboroareainterfaithcollaborative.org/tag/food-n-friends/.