BHS donates $50,000 to support Berkshire food programs

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PITTSFIELD — Berkshire Health Systems has donated $50,000 to the COVID-19 Emergency Fund for Berkshire County to support two major programs that provide reliable access to healthy food for residents of Berkshire County.

The donation was made in honor of all BHS employees and medical staff, according to a press release from the organization, which owns Berkshire Medical Center.

"From restaurants and small businesses to physicians and hospitals, we are all hurting as a result of COVID-19," said David Phelps, president and CEO of BHS, in a prepared statement. "After learning about the significant increase in food pantry needs in recent months, we knew we had to act. Our hospitals will have time to rebuild after the severe economic losses we have experienced, but a hungry family simply cannot wait,"

When social distancing and COVID-19 regulations forced BHS to cancel its annual employee and physician recognition events, BHS leaders decided that it would be fitting to redirect the budgeted funds that had been reserved for those events and, instead, make this donation in honor of employees and physicians, according to the release.

"We have received so much love and appreciation from our community members during the pandemic," Phelps said. "We want to give back to our community now, when the need for basic food and supplies is real for so many Berkshire residents."

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The COVID-19 Emergency Fund for Berkshire County is co-led by Berkshire United Way and Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation and in partnership with Northern Berkshire United Way and Williamstown Community Chest.

The $50,000 donation will be split evenly between the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, which services 12 food pantries in the Berkshires, and the Market Match program that allows low-income Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients to double their weekly food allowance when shopping at local farmers markets, according to the release. The Food Bank distributed 186,000 pounds of food in the Berkshires in March and reports a 20 percent increase in the number of households seeking services.

"The Berkshire Health Systems' employees and medical staff have gone above and beyond to support our community during this public health crisis," said Candace Winkler, president and CEO of Berkshire United Way. "We are especially grateful for BHS's generosity at this difficult time, given the health system's own significant financial needs."

Berkshire United Way and Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation have been able to leverage BHS's gift to unlock an additional $100,000 in funding from the MA COVID-19 Relief Fund and the Berkshire Community Action Council to be directed toward food pantries and programs in the county for operations and capacity-building.

"We are lucky to be able to partner with BHS to deliver this much-needed relief to our Berkshire food pantries and the families they serve," Winkler said.


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