Project combatting food insecurity launched at Gleason Family YMCA

Nov 12, 2020

The Gleason Family YMCA’s new food distribution program was faced with overwhelming demand on its first day. A line of cars waiting for food started forming at 8:30 a.m. — more than two hours before the Nov. 12 drive-thru community market opened — and all the available food was handed out after just half an hour, according to organizers.

The community market was part of the Full Plate Project — a partnership between YMCA Southcoast and the Greater Boston Food Bank that aims to combat food insecurity.

Anyone in the community who needed food was encouraged to come to the Gleason Family YMCA and participate in the drive-thru market. A volunteer asked people for their zip code and for some demographic information about the members of their household, but there were no further questions, said Debbie Fringuelli, senior executive director of the Gleason Family YMCA.

“If you feel you need it, come on in,” she said.

Fringuelli said she wanted her facility in Wareham to participate in the program the moment she learned other YMCA Southcoast locations were involved because she knew there was a serious need for food in the community.

By the time the market opened, the line stretched out of the Gleason Family YMCA parking lot and down Charge Pond Road. In total, more than 200 cars — and presumably more than 200 households — were provided with packages of food, Fringuelli said.

“It’s huge,” Fringuelli said. “It’s overwhelming, to say the least. Looks like we need more food next time.”

Although the weather was less than ideal, volunteers were cheerful and friendly as they filled cars with bags and boxes of food. The people receiving food were also in good spirits, with many offering words of thanks through open car windows despite the rain.

James Scherer, the CEO of YMCA Southcoast, spent the morning handing out food alongside more than 20 volunteers. He said volunteers started the morning dividing 7,000 pounds of food from the Greater Boston Food Bank into packages for each household.

“We have an army of volunteers here,” he said. “The food came in at about 7:30, it took a few hours to bag it up, and now we’re at the easier part. The weather of course wasn’t perfect, but it’s not below zero, right?”

Scherer said all the YMCA Southcoast locations will have community markets in time to meet the overwhelming need for food. With fewer people coming into the YMCA buildings because of coronavirus concerns, Scherer said he hopes the Gleason Family YMCA will become a food distribution hub. 

“With all the economic pain, this is how we’re able to contribute,” he said.

The event, which was scheduled for 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. or as long as food was available, ended at about 11:30 a.m. By that time, every package of available food had been distributed. The next community market at the Gleason Family YMCA will start at 11 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 11.

Currently, the partnership with the Greater Boston Food Bank is set for three years.