Paulo’s Pantry began in 2017, with the executive organizational help of teachers Karen Brown and ‘Akesa Mafi. Both Karen and ‘Akesa have volunteered extensive time to take care of the pantry, alongside other staff and student volunteers. Since inception, the pantry has worked to provide Paulo Freire Charter School families food, with the biggest projects revolving around seasonal baskets. Each season school is in session, fall, winter, and spring, the Pantry has put together food baskets with the help of generous donations from community individuals and businesses. The first year, Paulo’s Pantry was able to distribute 20 baskets, which has increased to 50 baskets in it’s fourth year.
The community partners we have worked most closely with over the last few years have been Dr. John Jarvis and his classes at Bay Path University, Deals and Steals in Northampton, 90 Meat Outlet in Springfield and PriceRite. Dr. Jarvis and his students have been integral to our food drives, fundraising, and physical infustructure.
Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, our efforts in 2020 have been dampened. Many of our close partners are unable to help in the same capacity. At the start of the pandemic in March 2020, the Pantry switched from actual food distribution to gift card distribution. Over $2,400 in gift cards have been distributed to our community families since March. While this model is helping our community and keeping our staff safe, it has created a strain on our resources. Recently, we have begun small scale food distribution to our families most in need. Additionally, the pandemic has only made food insecurities worse within our comminity. If students do not have access to fresh and nutritious food, school is far from their focus. With traditional food donations and distributions limited, we are currently focusing on monetary donations. Monetary donations allow us flexibility to provide families with assistance that will be most helpful to them. Any and all donations are greatly appreciated and reinvested directly in our community. Donations can be made by check made out to Paulo’s Pantry, sent to Paulo’s Pantry c/o Akesa Mafi, 134 Springfield Street Chicopee, MA 01013, or through the link above via GoFundMe.