Brookline Emergency Food Pantry—Annual Report for 2011

The Brookline Emergency Food Pantry, housed at St. Paul’s Church, is a community-wide effort to address a community-wide problem.  The pantry provides free food to Brookline low income families and individuals who need additional food that they cannot afford to buy. 

Between 2009 and 2011 we experienced a dramatic 65% increase in the number of visits to the pantry by both individuals and families.  Over many years, the number of visits had gradually climbed to 2650 in 2009.  In 2010 this jumped by an unprecedented 700 visits to 3350 and in 2011 there was a further increase to over 4400 visits. In particular, there was a marked increase in families with children using the pantry.

To meet this explosion in need, we increased pantry hours from 10 hours per week to 14 hours per week, adding an extra hour on Saturday and opening from 3 to 6 on Wednesday.  Fortunately, additional volunteers stepped forward so that staffing of the pantry continues to be very solid.

The additional use of the pantry has required a significant increase in the amount of food which we purchase.  Prior to 2010 the pantry purchased an average of $40,000 food to keep our shelves well stocked.  In 2010 this increased to $77,000 and in 2011 we spent $90,400 to be able to provide for this increased need by our Brookline neighbors.


The pantry is staffed by more than 40 volunteers.  Many volunteers give two or three hours assisting our customers while the pantry is open while others help with food ordering, shopping, food pickup and various administrative tasks.  There is a wonderful caring relationship to be seen between many of the volunteers and many of our customers.

This year we have been joined by many new volunteers who have been most welcome.  At the same time there continues to be a core group of long term volunteers who have been with the pantry for at least two years and, in some cases, more than ten years.  Without these dedicated volunteers the pantry could not function and on behalf of our customers I thank them all.


An exciting community event at the pantry occurs annually on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. On that day we give away over 100 turkeys and all of the other ingredients for a full Thanksgiving meal. This year we again served 120 households.  Dessert for this Thanksgiving dinner was particularly a community effort. Students at the Lawrence School prepared 75 apple pies, a church youth group prepared 30 pies and several pies were prepared by teenagers in the community.  Trader Joe’s donated a great many beautiful bouquets of flowers.

Food Donations and Other Food Sources

Once a week we make a trip to the Greater Boston Food Bank (GBFB) to get cases of free food. Ben Norton regularly does this each week with students from the BU Student Food Rescue group who provide some young muscles and a van.  Several pantry volunteers pick up end of day bread several times per week from Trader Joe’s.  The pantry also purchases food from local supermarkets. 

Students at all of the public elementary schools in Brookline and some private schools have food drives and bring food to the pantry on a regular basis.  On back-to-school night at the high school, parents were asked to bring food for the pantry.  This was collected by Brookline High students and two vanloads of food were delivered to the pantry.

Many communities of faith and organizations such as the Brookline Rotary Club and the Coolidge Corner Merchants Association make it a regular practice to support the pantry with food and/or funds. 

The letter carriers food collection in the spring continues to be a very important source of donated food providing more than 75 bins this year.  Each year over 30 volunteers devote a Saturday afternoon in mid-May to receiving and sorting the donations as the letter carriers bring in bin after bin.

Families and individuals regularly donate food to the pantry during the year.  Several families request that for their holiday open house, guests bring non-perishable food to be donated to the pantry.

Monetary Donations & Expenditures

Several communities of faith make annual donations to the pantry as do a number of Brookline businesses.  Many Brookline residents also donate funds to the pantry throughout the year.  In February, the Brookline Rotary Club sponsored the first annual Chocolate Extravaganza, raising over $10,000 for the pantry.  The Brookline Merchants Association raises significant funds for the pantry each year and in June the Brookline Department of Economic Development and a group of Brookline restaurants held the fourth annual Food Festival at the Devotion School raising $6,800 for the pantry.

Again, as in the last several years, the Brookline community responded very generously to the pantry’s end of year fund raising mailing.  This year in addition to our annual mailing to past donors, for the first time, we did a mailing to Brookline residents who had not previously given to the pantry.  This resulted in adding over 360 new pantry donors.

As pantry use has increased, a very large increase in food purchases has been needed to supplement the free food from the Greater Boston Food Bank and the food donations from the Brookline community.   In the past two years, food purchases have more than doubled from $40,400 in 2009 to $90,400 in 2011.

In 2010, donations fell short of expenses.  In 2011 total donations increased to $103,000 exceeding total expenses and making up for the prior year’s shortfall.

Pantry donors of both food and funds continue to be most generous and we thank all on behalf of our Brookline neighbors who are our customers.

Submitted by     Jim Margolis, Pantry Manager