Full plates to go at Dartmouth YMCA

Feb 16, 2021

Nearly one in eight people in Eastern Massachusetts could become food insecure due to the pandemic, according to the Greater Boston Food Bank — so the Dartmouth YMCA is doing what it can to help.

For the past four months, YMCA Southcoast teamed up with the food bank to launch the “Full Plate Project” in an effort to lower that statistic.

“Rain or snow, it’s all about helping the community,” Dartmouth Y Executive Director Maxine Hebert said.

The project, which began in November, encourages residents in need of food to stop by the Y’s parking lot for its drive-thru market on the third Tuesday of the month.

Once attendees are in line, a volunteer will ask for their zip code and for some demographic information about the members of their household.

According to project manager Claudia Arsenio, the Dartmouth site was “slow at first” during its November debut, but said “momentum has increased” in the months since.

“In the first week we had some leftover food, but now it’s a rare thing we have that,” she said.

Much of the food — provided by the Greater Boston Food Bank — includes nonperishables such as cereal, pasta, and shelf-stable milk. Bags also contain produce like carrots or potatoes.

Arsenio added that there are plans to incorporate a frozen protein into the monthly bags, but said the Dartmouth Y is still waiting to get additional freezer space.

On average, she noted, the project goes through 55,000 pounds of food per month across all of its South Coast sites — with around 100 Dartmouth households served each month.

For those looking to help with the food security effort, Arsenio said the Dartmouth Y is looking for volunteers to help bag and distribute food. Another option could be to help out with the Sharing the Harvest Farm — which aims to provide food security and agricultural education to the South Coast.

“If they want to get their hands dirty, they can go in the field,” Arsenio laughed. “We’ll take any of the help they want to give us.”

Even as more residents get their vaccines, Arsenio said the Y has no plans to stop its Full Plate Project any time soon.

“It’s going to take a long time for people’s finances to recover from this,” she said.

The next mobile market is scheduled for March 16 at 11 a.m.