Spotlight on Volunteerism: The Larchmont-Mamaroneck Hunger Task Force
By Marina Kiriakou -
Tuesday morning at the Food Pantry begins with the backup alarm of a Feeding Westchester truck reversing into the parking lot at 955 Mamaroneck Avenue. Bruce Meighan, Genie Juliano, and Sue King, accompanied by six dedicated volunteers, swiftly unload pallets of food and transport them inside. There, eight more volunteers await, ready to unpack and organize the items onto rows of tables. The first wave of volunteers sets the stage for the approximately 70 additional individuals who will soon join forces, working side-by-side. Their collective mission: to organize thousands of pounds of groceries with attention to detail, ultimately bagging and distributing them to over 500 residents starting at 3:30 pm.
The Food Pantry, under the umbrella of the Larchmont Mamaroneck Hunger Task Force (LMHTF), is a remarkable organization that exemplifies the principles of community activism, excellence, and compassion.
On a typical Tuesday, a staggering 860 bags are filled with groceries, a lifeline for many who reside within walking distance of the facility. Patrons check in with ID cards, which are electronically updated to verify their local address and household size. They leave the pantry with an assortment of essential items, including shelf-stable provisions like rice, bread, cereal, canned food, milk, and juices. Moreover, their bags come with an array of fresh produce: hearty potatoes and onions, apples, herbs, and crisp lettuce, and proteins such as poultry, meat, fish, cheeses, and yogurts. These groceries are thoughtfully curated to supplement a family's nutritional needs, providing sustenance for three to four days.
Recognizing that some individuals are unable to access the pantry, LMHTF goes above and beyond by arranging weekly grocery deliveries to their homes. Approximately 80 residents, many of whom are elderly or disabled, benefit from this invaluable service.
Two Saturdays each month, the Food Pantry hosts its “Fresh Market” and the Mobile Food Pantry. Patrons can supplement their weekly share with seasonal produce and specialty items.
The Power of Volunteers
LMHTF operates solely through the dedication of its volunteers. Each Thursday, a newsletter is emailed to approximately 1,100 people, organizing the upcoming week, and providing links to sign up for various activities. Volunteers engage in a range of tasks, including gathering and moving food, packing grocery bags, and distributing them to patrons. The support and commitment of these volunteers, spanning different generations and backgrounds, have been the backbone of the LMHTF's success.
The hard work of the volunteers is matched by the deep sense of fulfillment that keeps them continuously signing up to contribute their time and effort. As Suzy Huang, a regular volunteer, says, “It’s been inspiring and a privilege to be part of this organization. Those of us that work here form meaningful friendships.”
Catherine Carney, Vice President of LMHTF, recounts the challenges experienced in the last three years. “We were put to the test during Covid when we realized that our basement staging area at the Community Resource Center had insufficient ventilation for the number of workers. We pivoted quickly and moved our operation to the parking lot of Mamaroneck Avenue School, and then beneath a large tent at Columbus Park. The work conditions for our volunteers could be quite grueling, but the ultimate setback was Hurricane Ida.”
Concurrent with Covid and Ida, the Food Pantry saw a huge increase in patrons. The number of families in need doubled from 250 to over 500 since 2020.
A Game-changing Lease
Thanks to a lease secured on the Mamaroneck Avenue facility in December of 2021, LMHTF now operates from a purpose-built space. “This building suits our needs perfectly,” says Carney. “It’s on one level, has big doors, an entrance and exit, and is centrally located to our clients.”
Good leadership and a wealth of volunteers alone could not have addressed the logistical or food assistance demands placed upon the Food Pantry during these times. “LMHTF exists because of the generosity of people in Larchmont and Mamaroneck,” says Malcolm Frouman, President of LMHTF. “The vast majority of the food we provide is purchased with funds from private donations.”
LMHTF, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, was formed in 1993 by a coalition of community organizations, houses of worship, and concerned citizens dedicated to assisting local families who needed food. Mary Davis, one of the original founders, remains active to this day. The seven-member Board of Directors and 19-member Steering Committee are deeply committed and bring a range of expertise to the task. “We keep evolving,” says Carney. “It seems every week we tweak something to improve our operations.”
The Food Pantry is located at 955 Mamaroneck Avenue. Food distribution takes place on Tuesdays, from 3:30 pm – 6 pm, and bi-monthly on Saturdays. See the distribution calendar for times. To volunteer, donate, or inquire about food assistance, please go to: lmfoodpantry.org, or call 914-698-3558.