Catherine's Cupboard food pantry to close

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STANDISH — Catherine’s Cupboard, which provides food for up to 50 area families a week from Town Hall, will cease operations Dec. 19.

Some of the food pantry’s board of directors and Saint Joseph’s College, whose Mercy Center runs Catherine’s Cupboard, disagree on how the decision to shut down the resource was made.

College President James Dlugos said the board approached the college six weeks ago and recommended shutting down what he calls the “pop-up food pantry.” He said the idea had been discussed for a couple of years, and that Catherine’s Cupboard’s mission will be carried out in more effective ways.

Board member Michial Russell, however, said the decision was made soley by the college and the announcement caught the board off guard.

“We were informed that the college was going to be ceasing regular operations,” Russell explained. “We came into the board meeting (on Oct. 22), and we were just told.”

“We were shocked. This is a labor of love. It’s been around for 10 years, and it’s been a community that has become important to everyone,” he said.

A press release from the college announcing the pantry’s closure said, “Significant decisions like this are made jointly by the Board of Directors and College leadership.”

Russell theorized that part of the reason for the decision was the friction between the town of Standish and the pantry, which is located in Standish Town Hall.

“The new incoming town manager made no bones about it and said he didn’t feel the Town Hall was the place for a food pantry,” he said. 

Dlugos expressed a similar sentiment.

He added that the logistics of running the pantry were a challenge and the town of Standish did not provide any funding for it this year. 

Dlugos said Saint Joseph’s is not abandoning the mission of Catherine’s Cupboard. Rather, he said, the college is adjusting its focus based on where it can be most effective.

“The independent food pantry model is not sustainable. It does not provide the best return on investment of time and energy and dollars,” he said. 

For instance, Dlugos explained, Good Shepherd Food Bank can provide four meals for every $1 it receives. Catherine’s Cupboard is funded by the McSween Endowed Fund from the college, which contributes $11,000. With that amount, Dlugos said, Good Shepherd could provide 44,000 meals a year while Catherine’s Cupboard currently provides 8,000. 

“We will continue to provide direct assistance and work at the level of systemic change. Are there ways to be more efficient, ways we can reduce the need for that kind of assistance? We want to extend the influence of our work in this area,” he added. 

Dlugos said Cupboard volunteers are helping its clients locate other food pantries, and the Cupboard will continue to run Clynk campaigns and food donation drives and create Thanksgiving baskets. 

Russell said Saint Joseph’s support of other food pantries was “news to me. We have some operational meetings we still have to have as a board. Maybe there’s things they’re going to tell us at the next one.” He found the news “encouraging.”

Since learning of the closure, Russell said, board members have talked about possibly cutting back on operations “for a time” to “evaluate what we can do rather than shutting down” permanently.

 Dlugos said shutting down was not a possibility.

“There is no conversation about not continuing these events,” he said.

“The board members shouldn’t be talking about board decisions, outside of the board chair. It does a disservice to all the volunteers for a single board member to be spreading unfounded rumors like that,” Dlugos continued. 

Director of the Mercy Center Kathryn Cody said that on average, the pantry distributes 20 pounds of food a week to between one and 50 families.

Dlugos explained that Dec. 19 would have been the Cupboard’s last week of the year anyway since it always takes two weeks off over the holidays.

He said, “The college is committed to continuing to support Catherine’s Cupboard and all the activities. Our entire strategic plan is predicated on the fact that we are a stronger institution when we are a part of the community where we find ourselves. It will be a new day for Catherine’s Cupboard. That’s always exciting.”

Director of the Mercy Center Kathryn Cody declined to comment further and Cupboard board member Jackie Cattabriga, who works in the College’s human resources department, declined to be interviewed.

Jane Vaughan can be reached at 780-9103 or at jvaughan@keepmecurrent.com. 

Catherine’s Cupboard food pantry is held Wednesday nights at Standish Town Hall. 

Catherine’s Cupboard food pantry at Standish Town Hall will close next month.