PITTSFIELD — About 100 families who’ve been hit hard by the pandemic economy were able to pick up some boxes with generous amounts of fresh meat and produce Friday, the first day of the program organized and funded by the Berkshire Community Action Council using money provided by the federal CARES Act.
The agency had about $55,000 set aside from the CARES account that it wanted to use to help feed families whose income came primarily from the service, hospitality and restaurant industries, some of the hardest hit by the economic fallout of the pandemic, said Deb Leonczyk, executive director of BCAC.
The plan, Nutrition For All, aims to give away $50 food boxes free of charge to families referred to the program by local nonprofit human services agencies such as MassHire, Child Care of the Berkshires, Northern Berkshire Community Coalition, Goodwill, the Elizabeth Freeman Center and local schools.
Recipients must have household income at or less than 200 percent of the federal income poverty level, or an annual household income of $52,400 for a family of four. Because the program is federally funded, recipients also must be legal citizens.
“This program is meant for families who are on unemployment and really struggling through the pandemic,” Leonczyk said.
Depending on income levels, qualifying families will receive at least one box each month. Others could receive one box weekly. Distribution will occur every Friday into March at the BCAC offices at 1531 East St. in Pittsfield. Leonczyk said she is hoping to get more funding to extend the program beyond March.
The first day of distribution had families receiving a box with a 5-pound pork roast, 5 pounds of ground beef, 2 pounds of sausage along with fresh produce and a family size bag of frozen sweet potato fries. The boxes of food are packed by Wohrle’s Quality Foods in Pittsfield.
The distribution process is drive-through and contactless, Leonczyk said.
BCAC is also working with the Bridge program in South County for families there.
“With the government imposing more restrictions on restaurants, we decided we really needed to move on this and help people that are really hurting,” she said. “The food in those boxes could feed a needy family of four for 10 days.”