Lot cleared for new Damien’s Pantry location

Jun 4, 2023

After announcing a new location in August 2022 and receiving zoning approval and building permits from the town, Damien’s Place Food Pantry employees expect to open at 242 Marion Road this December, just in time for the holidays.

The lot, which was donated by Katharina, John and the late William Decas, was cleared of trees over the past few weeks, laying the groundwork for the 5,000-square-foot food pantry and the community garden planned for outside.

“Just to see the project started... It feels real for the first time,” said Damien’s Development Lead Rhonda Veugen. “[The difference] is going to be night and day.”

Damien’s has raised $1.43 million of its $2.2 million fundraising goal, leaving $770,000 left to raise. The pantry expects $420,000 more to come from existing commitments and requests, and will be launching a public campaign to raise the remaining $350,000.

Historically, Damien’s has served about 150 people per week, but Veugen said that number has doubled in the past year. She partially attributes the uptick to the expiration of pandemic SNAP benefits back in February. 

Increased need requires increased storage. The existing pantry at 3065 Cranberry Highway has limited space for dry goods, refrigerators, freezers and office space, Veugen said. Not only does that limit the amount of food the pantry can store, it also limits the number of choices that the pantry can offer to users. 

The Greater Boston Food Bank, from which Damien’s buys most of its food, recommends that all food pantries allow users to choose their own food to “increase client dignity.” The new building will have an open floor plan that will allow guests to walk around and choose groceries.

The upgraded pantry will also be able to protect guests from rain and cold weather with a heated canopy that will extend beyond the entrance. 

While guest service will remain the pantry’s primary focus, the larger space will allow Damien’s to become a “cross dock” pantry, which means it will unload food from the Greater Boston Food Bank and then load it back onto delivery trucks headed to smaller food assistance operations. 

Veugen said the building itself is being built offsite, and should be delivered some time in July. Damien’s plans to hold a groundbreaking ceremony at that time 

Donations can be made to the project at damiensfoodpantry.org/capital-campaign.