Over the past several decades, Haven From Hunger has been serving individuals in Peabody, Salem and Lynnfield who are in need of food assistance.
Individuals residing in these three towns are welcome to come in to Haven From Hunger and apply for assistance. The criteria are similar to what those applying for state benefits would need to meet. Applicants must present a proof of residency and income, as well as a photo ID. If they have children, their birth certificates are also needed.
In a recent interview with Lynnfield Patch, Haven From Hunger Director Alyse Barbash described how under the current economic conditions, it's not uncommon for more than 40 people to come to the group's Peabody headquarters for dinner. And even towns that are considered wealthy have a fair share of families who are experiencing hard times.
"Our mission is to feed anybody who is in need," said Barbash. '
The organization does far more than just serve dinner. Individuals receiving food aid can come in and pick up pre-made bags containing basic staples, including meat and produce. Those with children also get milk and eggs.
Also, during the summer months Haven From Hunger drops off lunch at the Peabody Library and the Center School for children who otherwise rely on the school lunch program during the non-summer months.
To meet the needs of its clients, Haven From Hunger relies on a large network of volunteers. Upwards of 100 people show up to do volunteer work during any given week, and more are always welcome, said Barbash. Otherwise, Barbash has a staff of three full-time workers: a pantry coordinator, a truck driver and a newly-hired administrative assistant.
For food collection, a significant portion of items come from the Greater Boston Food Bank. However, individuals, downtown businesses and community organizations frequently hold food drives that benefit Haven From Hunger. Barbash noted that Lynnfield's churches and clergy have also consistently provided support to the organization.
Another crucial source of food comes from a large number of local grocery stores, retail stores and bakeries that regularly donate goods.
"It's really nice how the community comes together and helps us," said Barbash.
While Haven serves Lynnfield residents in need of food assistance, this is not the only connection it has to the town. Before Barbash became the director last year, the organization was run by Trudy MacIntyre of Lynnfield, who was instrumental in founding Haven back in 1985.
"I'm just building on her program," said Barbash of MacIntyre. "I just want to build the program up. I feel strongly about what the potential of this can be."
Looking ahead, Haven From Hunger is looking for a new headquarters with an eye on expanding its current range of services. Right now, the organization's home is in the back of a Masonic temple near downtown Peabody. Under the current arrangement, the office is closed on Wednesdays, which also helps drive the search for a new location.
To raise the funds needed for a new headquarters, Haven From Hunger expects to begin a capital campaign to raise $1.3 million.
Barbash noted that with a new home, Haven From Hunger would also able to receive federal funds, because its present location does not have handicapped access.