The Island Food Pantry is facing unprecedented cuts to its grocery supply, at a time when the need has never been greater.
“We’re seeing twice as many people as we were two years ago,” said Rebecca Haag, executive director of the Island Grown Initiative, which runs the food pantry and several other food programs at the vineyard.
Staffing shortages at the Greater Boston Food Bank reduced the amount of low-cost groceries available to IGI and other Vineyard charities such as Good Shepherd Parish.
“We struggled to get enough food to the island,” Merrick Carreiro, IGI’s senior director of food equity programs, told a meeting of about two dozen social workers and volunteers. of Food Equity at Agricultural Hall last Thursday.
As the Boston Food Bank cuts hundreds of pounds of food from regular island program orders, Ms. Carreiro said IGI has been forced to supplement by ordering from wholesale restaurant supplier Sysco.
“We always have food available,” she said. “But our food costs are just astronomical right now.”
Ms Haag said IGI is expected to exceed its $450,000 annual food budget by $300,000 this year.
“We are going to need more money, but we are also going to have to identify new places to get food. And it won’t be free food,” she said.
Joe Capobianco of Good Shepherd’s food basket program said that when the supply is inconsistent, as has been the case recently, people are more likely to take more than they need from what is available.
“They’re going to stick it in their freezer,” he said.
At least one island agency has been unable to stock up on food. Barbara-jean Chauvin, director of operations at Martha’s Vineyard Boys and Girls Club, said her organization is willing to open its own food bank for club member families, but cannot provide groceries.
“Our applications to the Greater Boston Food Bank were declined,” Ms. Chauvin said.
Ms Haag, who formed the Food Equity Network in 2016 with the aim of connecting hungry islanders to the meal and grocery services they need, said the supply shortages are an unexpected setback.
“Access to food is a barrier that I would never have anticipated,” she said.