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Food bank 'bursting out of the seams' before move to new facility in Chicopee

The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts closed for a week, moving to a new location in Chicopee, Massachusetts.
Food Bank of Western Massachusetts
The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts closed for a week, moving to a new location in Chicopee, Massachusetts.

The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts spent the past week moving to its new headquarters in Chicopee. One of four food banks in the state, it closed this week and is scheduled to reopen Tuesday.

For several months, the organization had been preparing 172 pantries and meal sites for the temporary shutdown, said Executive Director Andrew Morehouse.

"We distributed an additional 150,000 pounds of food, above and beyond the same 10-day period last year," Morehouse said, describing a two-week period in August.

The new location is twice the size of its former facility in Hatfield, Massachusetts. Morehouse said the last few years have made it clear just how many more people are experiencing food insecurity. The increased need started well before the pandemic, he said.

"Back in 2008 to 2011, food insecurity just remained at an elevated level and we began to realize that we were running out of space," Morehouse said. "So we started looking around. And ultimately we made the decision that we wanted to look for vacant property in Hampden County, so that we could be closer to the largest concentration of people who experience food insecurity — and quite frankly closer to more diverse urban communities."

Morehouse said the organization found the Chicopee property in 2019.

"We purchased 16.5 acres in the beginning of 2020, and then — of course — during that period of time, the pandemic struck our region and the world, and we received tremendous amounts of food to get it out to people in need," Morehouse said.

At that point, the food bank was "bursting out of the seams," he said.

The new facility is at the crossroads of two major interstates, the Massachusetts Turnpike and I-91. Morehouse said the location will increase their efficiency to get food out to all four counties in western Massachusetts.

Disclosure: The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts is an underwriter of NEPM. That is not a factor in how the NEPM newsroom covers the organization.

Jill Kaufman has been a reporter and host at NEPM since 2005. Before that she spent 10 years at WBUR in Boston, producing "The Connection" with Christopher Lydon and on "Morning Edition" reporting and hosting. She's also hosted NHPR's daily talk show "The Exhange" and was an editor at PRX's "The World."