GREENFIELD — Free meals on Sundays have been available for several months at the Episcopal Church of Saints James and Andrew. But recently the need has increased rapidly. Since September, the church has gone from distributing about 25 meals a week to nearly 90 this week, and it still seems to be growing.
“It’s good that we’re here, but bad that we have to be,” said Marie Paquette, the chief soup maker at the church.
On Sunday mornings, a handful of volunteers meet at the church to prepare sandwiches and soups, which they then package with crackers and snacks in paper bags.
The meals are available to pick up between 11:45 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., at the Episcopal Church of Saints James and Andrew, at the corner of Federal and Church streets. Because of the Episcopal Diocese’s current health policies, the number of people inside the church has to be limited. So the meals are passed out in the church parking lot, from an open window.
Earlier this year, the church’s free meals on Sunday were an alternative to a different free meal program that had been available on the Greenfield Common, but which was canceled because of health concerns.
Now, since the start of the fall, the number of people coming to the church’s Sunday meals has steadily increased, Paquette said. Many of them are not people who had previously been coming to the free meals on the Common.
“They’re telling you stories like — we never thought we would be in this situation, my husband just lost his job, we just lost our benefits,” Paquette said. “It’s really sad.”
Because the need is still increasing, the church is especially open to extra donations and volunteer help, Paquette said. This week, 100 care packages were donated from two churches in Ashfield — St. John’s Episcopal Church and the First Congregational Church. Each donated package came with warm gloves, sweaters, sewing kits, crackers and other items.
The Episcopal Church of Saints James and Andrew also has a pantry that is open on the last Monday of each month, which provides essential items like toiletries, socks and home supplies.