by Pam Denholm.

The irony of moving from Southern Africa, where I’ve lived most of my life, to America to ultimately run a food security organization is not lost on me. South Africa has the highest unemployment rate in the world, according to the World Bank, and the social assistance programs are limited. As a country it has a lot to offer, but poverty and hunger are widespread and visible. You couldn’t drive from here to there without somebody offering to wash your windshield in return for the change in your center console while you wait at a traffic light.

We fix, reuse, recycle, repurpose, and rework, creatively. It’s part of your everyday tapestry to stand behind somebody in a supermarket who has no shoes and clothes so threadbare and full of holes they would not hold up as cleaning rags, counting out cents to buy a half a loaf of bread. A large portion of the population lives day to day, working for their next meal.

Pam Denholm, Executive Director, Weymouth Food Pantry.

This was my relationship with and understanding of food insecurity. I had lived on the South Shore for ten years when I came across a job posting for the Weymouth Food Pantry. I leveraged my nonprofit and food logistics experience and applied; my curiosity piqued. I had questions. Questions I did not ask during the interview process, but ones I wanted to understand: who was hungry?

What I learned made me fall in love with where I live.

Blue Cross Blue Shield volunteers cook up a storm.

The Weymouth Food Pantry is special. It has no Weymouth address, yet in Weymouth, it is omnipresent. Food is distributed at pop-up pantries, farmers’ market style, three times a week at three different locations. Neighbors who need help can come every week. If you don’t have transport and walk to us, we will give you a ride home with your groceries. And if you can’t come because you are ill, of advanced age, or disabled, we will deliver.

We have a backpack program that supports 450 school-aged children living with food insecurity, as young as five years old, across nine schools, with meals and snacks for the weekend. We offer fresh, whole foods at all our distributions, we have an open-access food pantry garden, and we offer a spending match (which includes SNAP benefits) at our local Farmers’ Market. We have a program we call “Made with Love” in which we offer home-style meals, prepared fresh and then frozen, to neighbors for whom cooking is a barrier to food security (it might be that you don’t have a stove or that you really shouldn’t be using one).

Lastly, coming online later this year, we have a food pantry bus—a school bus that is being converted to resemble a mini grocery store that will be able to meet people where they are—think senior housing or veterans’ programs.

Michelle and the cashiers at Curtis Liquors collect donations.

All these programs are not what makes us special; it’s the community support that makes them possible that is special. These programs are all an expression of care; the people who help don’t know the people being helped. We have nearly 200 volunteers, some of whom show up every week, some as often as three times a week. They are the nicest, kindest, most sincere, and compassionate people you could hope to meet. The world can be a hard place to live in sometimes. Seeing our volunteers in action is the antidote.

Will, Weymouth Kiwanis, Simple Gesture program.

Local businesses, too, are an indispensable part of our story. South Shore Bank made a ten-year financial commitment to the food pantry garden, and we have two members from their team volunteering with us every week on rotation. It’s time out of the office for which they are still paid. Similarly, Blue Cross Blue Shield sends us volunteers every month and regularly invites us to apply for community funding. What’s more, when we needed an employee/volunteer handbook, an overwhelming project we had been putting off for years, they did a skills-based project with us leveraging their own in-house talent to help compile a handbook that documented best practices, tailored to our unique culture.

Joanne, Jeanne, Sue, Lisa and Mary—our home delivery volunteers.

This is not the only example of local businesses sharing resources in a meaningful way. A couple years ago when the catalytic converter was stolen off our truck, an essential piece of equipment (not once, but twice), Mike Molisse of Molisse Realty offered his truck to keep us on the road. When our truck was repaired, Park Ave Market-Ace Hardware gave us a safe place to park at night, and we have been parking there ever since. JF Price donates the compost and wood chips for our garden every spring. Grille 151 restaurant has a special cocktail on their menu each month to raise funds for us.

The town shows support, too. Our backpack program is having such an impact on our children in Wey-mouth, but it wouldn’t exist without the teachers who give up their time to pack them and tuck them into the appropriate lockers while kids are in class. The public library hosts all our meetings, and it was town leadership who helped find funding for our bus. Churches conduct food drives and hold community suppers, and our three distribution partners deserve special mention: Old South Union Church, The First Church of Weymouth, and Crossroads Worship Center, who open parking lots, halls, and restrooms for us. All of these businesses and people are part of our pantry, carrying out its mission, serving neighbors with care.

Weymouth Police Food Drive

I guess what I have come all the way here to learn is that it truly does take a village. I didn’t find that village immediately when I moved here. In South Africa people really do rely on each other—you have to—and we are creatively resourceful. A popular saying, ‘n boer maak ‘n plan, expresses that ingenuity beautifully. In the absence of resources, you jigger together a solution, and that usually means borrowing a tool from somebody or having somebody come lend you a hand as part of that process.

At the food pantry and in Weymouth, I have found that village. Sharing resources within a community for the common good is a beautiful thing to witness, and it’s really led me to believe that an engaged community working together can solve any problem. You and I, together, can create the kind of world we want to live in. Who else wants to help?

L-R: Ted Langill, Chief of Staff, Town of Weymouth Pam Denholm, Executive Director, Weymouth Food Pantry Nicholas Bulens, Chairman of the Board, Weymouth Food Pantry John MacLeod, Director of Asset Management


Jim (pantry driver) and Pam

Weymouth Food Pantry
PO Box 890009
Weymouth, MA, 02189
(781) 331-7682

Pam Denholm lives on the South Shore and runs both the Weymouth Food Pantry and the South Shore Food Bank. (Want to get involved or learn more? Reach out!) She’s a writer, artist, and passionate placemaker who loves bringing people together in community.