14 March

Photo Journal, Morning Visit: Come And Meet The Cambridge Pantry And The Amazing People Who Volunteer There. I’m Signing Up As A Volunteer

by Jon Katz

I spent the morning at the Cambridge Food Pantry. I was bringing donated  sour dough and seed bread from Kean Mcllvaine’s Covered Bridge Food Company, also some soap from Cindy Casavant and frozen food from friends. That’s how the day started.

Then Maria and I went to the pantry.

I wanted to get a good look at the Pantry and meet some of the amazing volunteers who have worked so hard day after day to get food into the mouths and stomachs of hundreds and hundreds of people.

(Above, Kean at Covered Bridge Bread Co.)

The atmosphere was open, serious and full of energy. There was a lot more to do than I might have imagined.

The volunteers have a great deal to do in the building, which is larger and more complex than I thought.

I’m embarrassed to say this is the second time I’ve set foot in the pantry, the new Executive Director  – Sarah Harrington – approached me two weeks ago, she said she was looking for more local pepole to advocate for the pantry, which is growing and more vital than ever.

I jumped at the chance, it’s a natural fit for the Army Of Good, and even so, I  was startled by the volume and range of food now pouring into the pantry and the hard work that goes into getting, stocking and distributing it.  Nothinga about this process is easy.

I want to be a part of it and add it to our range of good works.

The volunteers impressed me so much I’ve asked Sarah the pantry director Sarah Harrington if I could sign up as a volunteer one morning a week. I felt welcome, comfortable and eager to help.

Our first response to the wish wishes was a huge success. More boxes are coming every day.

(Here is the newly updated – 3/14/24 – wish list. You can contribute these items at any time, they are continuously updated:  The new list has eleven inexpensive items, some as low as $4.28.

They are Chef boyardee Beef Ravioli, 4 pack, $4.28; Jiffy Blueberry Muffin Mix, Pack of 12; Jiffy Pizza Crust Mix, (price varies); Pergo Traditional Pasta Sauce, case of 12; Dinty Moore Beef Stew, 8 pack, price varies;Colgate tooth paste, pack of 4, $11.19; Domino Confectioners powdered sugar, pack of 4, $13.74; Softsoap Liquid Hand Soap, 12 pack, $15.18; Campbell’s Chunky Soap, Pub-Style Chicken Pot Pie, case of 8, $13.73; Chef Boyardee Jumbo Spaghetti and Meatballs, 12 pack, $24.45; Pasta Roni Shells and White Cheddar Mix; pack of 12, $12.00.

All of the items we are asked to donate are things that are not available to the pantry from other food groups or groceries.

The volunteers were kind, hard-working, and committed to the pantry and to helping the people who need it.

They were inspirational for me, hands on people who don’t talk about helping others, but who do it all the time. They have great feeling for the work they are doing.

I’d be flattered to join them. I was permitted to tour the building and take some photos, I’m happy to present a Cambridge Pantry Food Photo Journal, the first of many.

Come and see where your many donations have been going and what they look like on the other end. More than 60 million Americans are believed to struggle with food insecurity.

And thanks, Sara, for inviting me to this very special group. I hope these photographs show you all the scope and depth of the donations you are giving to the pantry and the many people who depend on it.

There are now more cans of Campbell soups going out this weekend to families than the pantry has every had. The parents coming to the pantry are thrilled, Campbell soups are the most requested food. Below are the soups we sent right away. More are coming.


Campbell soups are the hardest soups for the pantry to find, and they were very happy to set out the boxes of Campbell soup that came pouring in this week.

Today, you can see what  you have done, your donations are ready to go out into the world.


These food packs – the Pantry Back Pantry Program – are for the children in the central school nearby.

The pantry volunteers regularly brings these carefully chosen packs to 66 children in the school. The packs are screened for allergy and other medical issues and numbered, rather than lettered, so the kids can keep their privacy and anonymity.

Many of the people who come to the pantry are embarrassed and they and their children don’t want others to know. This takes an enormous amount of work. Volunteeers don’t get paid.

One innovation here from our usual wish list formats is that the wish lists are never taken down, they are changed and updated daily. This means you can donate to the pantry at any time. The staff goes over the lists constantly and updates them.


Scott Eddy is in the school most days, organizing the food, making sure it’s fresh and wholesome, her he is in the produce cold room. I was surprised at the different rooms and kitchens in the pantry. They aren’t kidding, this is the real deal.

Tim was working preparing the shelves for the visits this weekend. Thanks to the Army of Good, mustard is available for the first time.

There are at least two kitchens, they are large, clean and ready for service.

Sye Preece is a good manager, she tracks what they need and works with Sarah Harrington to make up the wish lists we are using to donate food.

She is very happy to see those soup cans and  one day will ask for more microwave popcorn – not quite yet.

A second pitch and work area in the pantry. The building has a lot of space for fresh and frozen food and they make warm meals at least once a week

The pantry depends on volunteers. They are almost always there, stacking, marking, packing and preparing all the bins that hold the food the customers sort through and pick through.

There are limits to what each family can take, but no questions are ask, the workers here are thoughtful and courteous. I felt  easy there, and welcome. I’m anxious to get to work as a volunteer.

Thanks again for your support, the Army of Good never ceases to inspire or amaze me. I am personally very serious about sticking with this organization, they are doing heroic and urgent work, every single day.

The Army of Good fits their needs, as well as my hopes. As with the Mansion and the refugee programs, I want to work in the middle of it, so I can understand what is needed and translated to people who want to help.

I’m grateful to all of you, you make this possible.


    1. It’s not easy for food pantries to find that doesn’t mean it’s impossible for shoppers find. I don’t know why, you’d have checked with the grocery chains.

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