By Adam Shanks, Berkshire Eagle Staff
NORTH ADAMS -- Local food pantries made the best of a bad situation on Friday, collecting more than 3,000 pounds of unused food from the former North Adams Regional Hospital kitchen.
The Berkshire Food Project, the Northern Berkshire Interfaith Action Initiative Friendship Center, and the Family Life Support Center Louison House all took several carloads of groceries on Friday.
Valerie Schwarz, executive director of the Berkshire Food Project, estimated her staff brought back well more than 1,500 pounds of free food. The quality of the products was exceptional she said, and estimated a value of $10,000 to $12,000 for the range of frozen vegetables, cereals, canned goods and other products.
The Berkshire Food Project sent up about seven cars and a large van to handle the massive supply of food, Schwarz said.
"It's bittersweet," she said.
The hospital closed abruptly last week, leaving as many as 530 employees without jobs, although at least 75 have been re-hired in various capacities. It was not clear who was authorized to donate the food.
On Friday afternoon, Rich Davis, the food pantry coordinator at the Friendship Center, was still taking inventory of the day's haul. Davis estimated the Friendship Center, which gives out about 4,000 pounds of food every week, took in about 1,400 pounds of new food.
"We're not letting something go to waste," Davis said.
He estimated the food was enough to feed about 50 families, while Schwarz estimated hers was enough to provide about 2,500 meals.
"We're very grateful," Davis said.
The Berkshire Food Project, which provides a free hot meals to the public every weekday, took most of the larger cans and boxes of frozen vegetables. The Friendship Center and Louison House, which gives the food directly to those in need, took smaller boxes and cans, according to Davis.
The Louison House could not be reached for comment on Friday.
The Friendship Center, located at 43 Eagle Street, is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. every Wednesday.