COVID-19 Daily News

Holyoke Community College Donates Surplus Food to Area Nonprofits

HOLYOKE — Surplus food from Holyoke Community College (HCC) has benefited hundreds of individuals and families who frequent area food pantries and social-service agencies.

With the HCC campus now closed and all classes moved online because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the college donated its perishable food supplies to three area nonprofits: the Martin Luther King Jr. Family Center in Springfield, the YWCA Transitional Living Program in Holyoke, and the Easthampton Community Center. The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts helped coordinate the donations.

In late March, college staff emptied the pantries and refrigerators at the HCC MGM Culinary Arts Institute on Race Street. Stacy Graves, the institute coordinator, estimated that the college donated about $600 worth of produce, fruit, milk, eggs, butter, yogurt, and cream to the YWCA Transitional Living Program. The food had been slated for use in HCC’s Culinary Arts program.

“I hope you guys like carrots and potatoes because there’s lots of them,” Graves said to Sharifa Forbes, the YWCA program supervisor, as they unloaded the van.

“We really do appreciate it,” Forbes said. “Thank you so much for this. This is awesome.”

Tess Gordon, the YWCA’s direct-service advocate, said the food would be portioned out for the dozen or more teen moms who live with their children at the center, where they prepare their own meals.

“Right now, with COVID-19, it’s hard for them to go out into the community to shop, especially with keeping their kids safe,” Gordon said.

“I wish I could give you a big hug,” Forbes said to Graves from a safe distance in the parking lot outside the center. “It helps out a lot. Times are uncertain. The girls are nervous.”

On another day, after emptying the walk-in coolers of the college’s cafeteria kitchen, Mark Pronovost, director of Aramark/Dining Services at HCC, delivered nearly 400 pounds of assorted produce, fruit, and dairy products to the Martin Luther King Jr. Family Center — enough food, he was told, for 327 meals.

Pronovost also cleaned all the perishables out of the college’s vending machines and delivered those items — fresh fruit, dairy products, yogurt, chips, popcorn, pretzels, and other retail products — to the Easthampton Community Center, which runs a food pantry for area residents and works closely with HCC’s Thrive Student Resource Center to provide free backpacks and school supplies to low-income students and families.

“If we hadn’t done this, we would just been throwing all the food in the trash,” Pronovost said. “It’s impressive that HCC is willing to do this, and I’m very happy to do it.”

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