Full Plate Project scales up food distribution for families in need

Nov 24, 2021

It’s the season of giving in Dartmouth, and two groups have teamed up to ensure residents in need have food available for the holidays and beyond.

Throughout the year, YMCA Southcoast, in partnership with the Greater Boston Food Bank, has held regular mobile food pantries distributing fresh food to families across the South Coast.

“We get a lot of cars, but we’re always happy to help,” said Sy Yules, who currently oversees the Full Plate Project in Dartmouth.

Markets were initially held once a month, but after teaming up with Dartmouth United Outreach this past summer, they shifted toward weekly operations at the Gulf Road property.

“It’s really exploded,” Coordinator Lyn Dillies said. “Kind of like being on a hamster wheel trying to meet all the demands, but it’s all about helping those who need it.”

The volunteer-driven project began offering food to the public in April 2020 through a weekly drive-through model from the Smith Mills Congregational Church parking lot. Dillies said the shift toward the Y came after programs and activities returned to the church.

“That and our operations kind of outgrew the church,” she said with a smile. “We wanted to maintain our help and this collaboration was a wonderful solution.”

Once at the Y, families are able to get dry goods, fresh and frozen fruit, chowder, and a protein. 

Families of four or more can also receive a box from the Greater Boston Food Bank containing 32 pounds of food including cereal, peanut butter, pasta, and non-perishable proteins.

For the holiday, the market offered families butternut squash, fresh cranberries, apple cider, and a whole turkey, along with the usual grab and go bags.

Drivers from Dartmouth United Outreach will also make deliveries for those who are unable to drive to the Y.

“We’re giving a lot of food,” Yules said.

In the week just before Thanksgiving, Yules noted that volunteers helped distribute food for 352 families at the Dartmouth site.

According to the Greater Boston Food Bank, one in eight people in Eastern Massachusetts lived in food insecure homes during 2020.

“Everyone deserves a meal,” Dillies said.

Even as the economy slowly rebounds from the pandemic, Dillies said the plan is to continue the weekly food distributions “until we are no longer needed.” 

“They know we have their backs,” she said. “Our mantra is to provide people with hope and we’re continuing that mission.” 

Pickups are held every Tuesday from 3 to 4:40 p.m. in the parking lot outside of the Dartmouth YMCA located at 276 Gulf Road. Those interested in volunteering can learn more about the program by visiting ymcasouthcoast.org/schedules/health-fitness/full-plate-project/.