New Wampanoag Food Pantry Serving Nearly 200 Families

By: GEOFF SPILLANE,

Since opening earlier this summer, the food pantry at the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Community and Government Center on Great Neck Road North has proven to be a godsend for nearly 200 tribal families in need.

During construction of the new community and government center, the tribal food pantry had been closed for nearly 18 months.

“We were closed, but we were able to give tribe members a food gift card for most of that time,” Joanne M. Frye, director of the tribe’s elders department, which oversees the food pantry, said.

For the nine months prior to the opening of the new building, the food card program had been suspended necessitating needy tribe members to use the services of other local food pantries, including those at the Parish of Christ the King in Mashpee, and St. John’s Episcopal Church in Sandwich.

“We are able to offer so much more in the new pantry than we could in the old facility,” Ms. Frye said, adding that her organization would typically serve 48 to 50 families per month in the smaller building, but that number has recently soared to 182 families at the new location.

The tribal food pantry is funded by tribal contributions, and a Massachusetts Community Development Block Grant. The block grant for 2014 was approximately $90,000 and tribal leadership hopes that the funding will recur on an annual basis, according to Ms. Frye.

Last Friday, September 12, Latoya Green, the tribe’s fuel assistance coordinator, provided a tour of the new food pantry, which is located on the ground floor of the sprawling community and government center. It is well-stocked with groceries, and has several new appliances installed to store perishable and frozen foods.

Foodstuffs are purchased directly by the food pantry director and staff, while some items are obtained through The Greater Boston Food Bank. Roche Bros. supermarket delivers bread products to the pantry on weekly basis.
Ms. Green explained that clients of the food pantry must show a tribal identification card, and are allowed to visit once per month.

There are no income guidelines.

“If they need it, they need it,” she said.

In addition to dry groceries, the pantry is equipped to serve dairy products—milk, cheese, butter, meat if it is available, and fruits and vegetables.

Ms. Green said that the goal of the pantry is to offer clients a standardized menu that will meet the needs of a household for one week. During the remaining weeks in the month, tribe members will still need to visit other food pantries in the area.

“Of course, if there’s an emergency, the family in need can speak with the pantry director. We would never say no if there was an emergency,” she said.

Ms. Green also said that there is an ongoing effort to provide clients with fresh food grown and caught by other members of the tribal community. For instance, this summer the pantry was stocked with fresh vegetables grown at the tribe’s Maushop Farm on Sampson’s Mill Road.

“We have put out an offer to other tribal members to share the fresh fish, shellfish, or meat that they have caught or hunted, as we have the capacity here to prepare and package it. It’s very cool to see your people eat food grown by their own people on their own lands. It helps bring that sense of community back,” Ms. Green said.

The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe food pantry is open Tuesday and Thursday from 10 AM to 3 PM, as well as on Wednesday evening from 5 to 7 o’clock.