In March 1984, a group of dedicated citizens within the Social Justice group at All Souls Unitarian Church set forth to start a program that would provide free meals and the opportunity for social connection to their neighbors in need within Franklin County. The idea included the use of community facilities, namely church kitchens and dining halls, and partnerships with religious and social organizations to provide and serve sit-down community meals focused on nourishment and fellowship. The first community meal was served in Greenfield in July 1984, establishing the Greenfield Community Meal site. In 1989, the founders filed for official 501(c)(3) non-profit status under the name Franklin County Community Meals Program, Inc (FCCMP). due to the evident need in the community and the immense support backing the cause. As the organization was established, a board of directors was created, an executive director officially hired to lead the charge, and operations continued to expand. The next programs established were the Turners Falls Community Meal site and the Orange Community Meal site. All three programs are still in operation to this day, working with and serving members of their individual communities. In the fall of 2021, the Northfield Community Meal site began serving monthly meals as the newest program of FCCMP. Each year, FCCMP provides over 25,000 free meals to its neighbors across Franklin County through its free community meal sites.
In 1995, FCCMP opened the Orange Food Pantry in downtown Orange to provide food and household supplies monthly to area residents with emergency needs. Currently, food pantry patrons may visit the pantry weekly for a partial choice shopping experience which includes fresh and non-perishable foods, toiletries, diapers and other household staples. At the Orange Food Pantry, FCCMP distributes over 250,000 pounds of food to over 900 households yearly. Over the years, the organization has worked to improve dignity and access at it’s pantry. FCCMP set out to increase offerings of fresh produce, dairy, meat and baked goods. Through the support of community foundation grants and donors, refrigeration equipment was purchased including merchandiser display refrigerators to cultivate a free grocery store experience.
In June 2016, the Orange Pantry Outreach Program was established with the goal of increasing access by providing food directly to people’s homes. This began with monthly deliveries to the Winslow Apartments in Greenfield, and evolved to include a delivery program to pantry patrons’ homes in 2020, a weekly distribution at the Redbrook Village in Orange in 2021, and pop-up pantry tables at the Greenfield and Orange Community Meal sites to provide supplemental items to its meal site guests.
The Greenfield Community College (GCC) Food Pantry was established in 2011 as a partnership between FCCMP and GCC with the goal of providing food and household supplies monthly to GCC students and staff with emergency needs. This program continues today distributing 9,000+ pounds of food to over 300 individuals. This pantry is staffed by GCC employees and volunteers.
In 2018, a dedicated community member reached out to FCCMP with the desire to establish a Mobile Food Bank. This program currently operates as a monthly distribution on the third Wednesday of every month in the Senior Center parking lot in Turners Falls as a partnership between the Food Bank of Western MA, the Montague Council on Aging and FCCMP. Each month, the Turners Falls Mobile Food Bank distributes 2,500+ pounds to an average of 200 individuals.
The model was always and continues to be focused on building community. To this day the mantra of the organization is Neighbors Feeding Neighbors. Everything that FCCMP is able to accomplish, every mouth fed and resource provided is thanks to an immense network of support. The “Community Meals Program” truly works in partnership with the community to alleviate hunger.