After nearly 50 years, Concord’s popular Holiday Food Basket Project comes to an end

  • Volunteers add food to a boxes as part of the Capital Region Food Program’s Holiday Food Basket Project at the New Hampshire Army National Guard Armory in Concord on Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2017. The boxes will contain enough food to last a few weeks in addition to a special holiday meal. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz

  • Last week, we gave you a sneak peek into the first day of the Capital Region Food Program’s 41st annual Holiday Basket Project, when all the donated food was sorted. Here’s what happened when those stacks of boxes (5,000 total) started to get filled. Top left: Volunteers add some food. Above: Who doesn’t enjoy a little Corn Flakes action? Bottom left: That’s a lot of food to distribute.

  • Last week, we gave you a sneak peek into the first day of the Capital Region Food Program’s 41st annual Holiday Basket Project, when all the donated food was sorted. Here’s what happened when those stacks of boxes (5,000 total) started to get filled. Top left: Volunteers add some food. Above: Who doesn’t enjoy a little Corn Flakes action? Bottom left: That’s a lot of food to distribute.

Monitor staff
Published: 3/11/2022 4:27:34 PM

After nearly 50 years of providing tens of thousands of Concord area families with meals during the holiday season, the Capital Region Food Program has decided to discontinue it’s holiday basket distribution.

The Holiday Food Basket Project, established in 1974, supplied hungry individuals and families with a way to fill their stomachs in the winter months. Each year of its existence, the program has dispensed approximately 70 tons of food to these residents, with help from donated funds and community food drives. Most commonly, a holiday meal and various non-perishable items would be provided in boxes to help supplement meals for multiple weeks.

Timothy Grotheer, the chairman of the program, cited “numerous factors and forced changes,” as reasons for the program’s end. He explained that the COVID-19 pandemic spurred the food bank’s board take a step back and evaluate the sustainability of the program, and if it was the best way for the organization to help local citizens in need.

“You have all of the creation of the boxes, you have the movement of all of the goods, you have the coordination and collaboration of all the volunteers, the actual days of everything to be packaged and sent out,” Grotheer said. “It's a large degree of hands on in-person efforts. And when something like a pandemic comes into play, all of that shifts on a dime.”

He said that between 50 and 100 different volunteers came together every year on the day of the event to package and send out boxes, not counting all the volunteer hours in the community to collect and deliver the food. The program partnered with the N.H. Armory National Guard to house their distribution center, as well as partnering with various other organizations to help with food accumulation and logistics. When the program started, few options existed for alternative food sources in the area, but with increased food banks, soup kitchens and social services agencies, the operation has become less efficient then organizers want it to be.

Grotheer emphasized that this decision has loomed for years. The rise of technology has helped the organization communicate in new ways, and helped them network and get food where it is needed most. He believes that modernized programs could help them utilize this technology in ways that could aid their ability to make a greater impact on the community.

“We've been kind of embarking on this journey for a couple of years, just really poking at the sustainability factor,” he said. “And then the opportunity and new technologies and products we provide as they present themselves over the years. Those were really the main factors in this decision. Really, the sustainability factor and the fact that technology at large has really shifted has changed our philosophy.”

While they will still work to end hunger over the holidays, new programs to replace the Holiday Food Project are currently being discussed by the food bank’s board, and they will outsource ideas and opportunities, Grotheer said.

“We're definitely targeting focus groups for what's to come afterwards,” Grotheer said. “And it's with the lens of the shifting landscape, the various factors that play into the execution of a program such as the holiday food basket project.”

Grotheer was hopeful that this reform would prompt excitement and an opportunity for real change.

“I think any type of transitions such as this is going to have an impact, but our hope is that it's going to be a positive one,” Grotheer said. “We hope that we're going to be able to not just reach the families that we were touching with the holiday food basket project, but that we'll be able to expand that to a get some of those families that had  dropped off.”

In 2012, the project was able to help 2,519 families, but that number has steadily dropped to 1,319 families in 2020. The Capital Region Food Program is still maintaining their year-round distribution projects, which have provided 3,200 tons of food to families in tandem with the Holiday Food Basket Project.




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