BTCF Awards $1.09 Million in CARES Act Funding for Food Security in Berkshire County

Massachusetts state agency partnership with community foundations is a resounding success.

By Deirdre McKenna / February 21, 2024

Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation, in partnership with the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), was one of 13 community foundations across the state entrusted to re-grant federal CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act Funds to local organizations. This funding, known as Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) for Food Security, was allocated to 10 Berkshire County nonprofits operating food provision programs serving individuals with moderate or low income.

What is a block grant? Block grants are federal funds designated for specific state or local programs and administered by state or local authorities familiar with local issues.

For the stream of federal funds to reach its intended recipients and have the greatest impact, the state agency turned to the grantmaking experience and local expertise of community foundations.

“CARES Act funds have been essential in feeding more than 500,000 low- and moderate-income communities across the state in response to the COVID-19 pandemic," said Ed Augustus, secretary of the Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities for the Massachusetts state government. "And no one knows the needs in our communities like our community partners who have worked to deploy food-related resources quickly and efficiently. Our partnership with this network of community foundations has been a resounding success."

Stanton Home and CHP Food Pantry awardees of CDBG funds
Stanton Home, Photo by John Dolan, and CHP Food Pantry, Photo courtesy of CHP website.

COVID-19 and the economic effects of the pandemic resulted in an increased demand for food provision services among Berkshire County residents. One grantee, The Food Bank of Western MA, collects data on hunger and food-insecure percentages in Berkshire towns via reporting from its partner food pantries. Berkshire County’s average local hunger rate is at 8.5%, however, some individual towns such as Pittsfield have a rate as high as 10.7%.

BTCF’s administration of CDBG funds focused on helping qualified food provision programs make critical capital investments and improve the reach and efficiency of their services. CDBG awards of up to $200,000, made it possible for the nonprofits to purchase equipment such as refrigerators, freezers, refrigerated trucks, and forklifts—all of which make it easier to meet the increased need in our communities.

Peter Stanton, director of grantee nonprofit Stanton Home, which provides life-long residences and day programs for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, said, "The food security grant allowed us to make much needed upgrades to feed the 30 people in our care and the 70 plus staff who provide that care. Our community is still rebuilding and healing from the impact of COVID. Without this grant it would have taken us years to fund the purchase of this essential equipment that brings our community together on a daily basis."

CDBG Food Security Grantee Projects

Berkshire Dream Center: "Bright Morningstar Kitchen" Expansion Project

Purchased kitchen equipment to expand the restaurant-style soup kitchen to benefit residents of the Morningside community (considered a USDA food desert) in Pittsfield.

Community Health Programs: Enhancing Access to Food in Berkshire County Through a Mobile Food Pantry

Purchased a refrigerated vehicle to be used as a Mobile Food Pantry to collect, transport, distribute food, and purchase equipment necessary for the storage, transport, and distribution of food.

Elder Services of Berkshire County: Senior Nutrition/Meals on Wheels Program-Kitchen Equipment

Replaced unreliable kitchen equipment to prepare and distribute over 225,000 meals to seniors in Berkshire County every year (950 meals per day).

Goodwill Industries of the Berkshires and Southern Vermont: Fighting Hunger in the Berkshires

Purchased a delivery truck to expand healthy food (fresh vegetables, fruit and frozen meats) deliveries to northern Berkshire County families.

BRIDGE: Mutual Aid, BRIDGE Food Security Program

Purchased a refrigerated vehicle for the transportation of food to families and to purchase kitchen equipment for a commercial kitchen to distribute and process food to Berkshire County’s economically vulnerable residents.

The Food Bank of Western MA

Purchased equipment to augment their warehouse operations, including a reach truck, a narrow forklift used in aisles, and a rider-powered pallet jack.

Stanton Home

Significant upgrades for the working kitchen of the for this residential and day program for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. A new sink, oven hood, ductwork, refrigerator, hot water heater, prep tables and more help provide daily meals for the residential community including staff and volunteers.

Gladys Allen Brigham Community Center

Significant updates for the community center’s kitchen and kitchen at the camp for the safe provision of nutritious meals. The update include new cabinetry, counterspace, new walk-in refrigerator at camp, new freezers, dishwasher, and replacing old vinyl flooring.

First Baptist Church of North Adams

Purchased new kitchen equipment for the Saturday soup kitchen, which currently feeds 50-75 community members. The funds will also allow for service in an expanded space to serve a larger number and add another day of the week.

South Congregational Church

Purchase of larger energy efficient walk-in fridge and freezer units in a new easy-access location. The South Community Food Pantry is the largest food pantry in Berkshire County, serving 900-1000 families weekly, including over 370 weekly home deliveries to elderly, disabled, or those without transportation. Equipment upgrades will provide larger and safer capacity for food storage, and avoid carting food up and down in elevators, allowing more time for direct client services.