Neal speaks with pantry coordinator Mary Wheat and state Sen. Adam Hinds.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, in partnership with Vanguard Renewables and H.P. Hood, delivered 400 gallons of milk to the South Congregational Church Community Food Pantry.
It is hard enough for the food pantry to serve all those in need. Throw a pandemic in the mix and resources have to be stretched even further.
"Food security in the pandemic is critical," Neal said Friday afternoon. "One of the things that really got my attention, you would see these photos of farmers having to dump milk. Throwing away perishables. That got my attention."
This is the fifth milk donation event sponsored by Vanguard Renewable, a national leader in the development of food and dairy waste-to-energy projects. Hood is a national dairy and food distributor headquartered in Lynnfield.
"We have donated more than 1,000 gallons that is pretty successful," Neal said. "You are always reminded of the human dimension to it all. A lot of the time people are not getting the necessary sustenance."
This is the fifth milk donation event sponsored by Vanguard Renewables. Other events were held in Boston on May 7, in Providence, R.I., on May 27, in Plainville on June 4, and Springfield on June 5.
Pantry coordinator Mary Wheat gave Neal a tour, pointing to the different stations of food allowing the proper social distancing. She touched on the pantry's drive-through pickup and other creative ways it is providing hundreds of people with food a week.
"There are a lot of people hungry," she said. "We keep getting calls."
She said she was thankful for all the donations and noted organizations and businesses have really stepped it up during the pandemic.
Neal said he was very familiar with the workings and the necessity of food pantries having started one when he was the mayor of Springfield.
"I take some pride in having started one in Springfield," Neal said. "It was always a reminder of how grim it could be for a lot of people."
In the kitchen, Neal discussed some of the programs helping people through the pandemic. He said sustenance is one thing, the other issue is getting money in the hands of those who need it the most.
He said these programs will likely have to ramp back up.
"We haven't seen the other side of this yet. We are only in the middle of this. It is going to be this way for a while," he said. "The good news is there is a decrease in the number of people who have filed for unemployment benefits. The bad news is there are more than 30 million who have filed unemployment."
He said Congress will likely try to send another check to households and focus more resources on these programs.
"We are likely to do another check. We are likely to do more unemployment insurance, hospital money, the job retention job credit, the paycheck retention program," he said. "I think it did what it was supposed to do."
He specifically said the paycheck retention program worked well in the Berkshires and benefited a lot of employers
"We used really good minds and really good people and when you look at the paycheck programs. Look what that has done in the Berkshires," he said. "The money flowed through the system and stabilized things quickly."
He said now is not the time to be complacent and that he was very proud of the House Ways and Means Committee, which he chairs. Not with just its more recent work but what it has been able to accomplish over the past few years.
"The committee wrote two-thirds of all of this legislation and I am so proud of it and how successful we have been and what we have done over the past few years," he said. "We did find a path forward to deliver these things and we are going to have to do it again."
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