HAMPDEN "Food is in the family. My husband, who just retired, was a Stop & Shop manager and zone manager," said Virginia Schneider, volunteer coordinator of the Hampden Brown Bag Food Program.
For the past year and a half Schneider, her husband, Phil, and a quartet of volunteers have made sure Hampden residents who signed up for the supplemental food program received their extra bag of groceries on the third Tuesday of the month.
Hampden's Brown Bag Food Program offers anyone age 55 and over who meets income requirement $1,511/month for a single person, $2,035/month for a couple the opportunity to receive the extra food for a donation of $3.
"We ask for the donation, but people don't have to," Schneider said. "There may be people who need [the food] some months."
Schneider's son, who was working with the Western Mass. Food Bank back in 2004, sort-of volunteered his parents to oversee the program for his hometown.
He knew, Schneider said, that it was the kind of job his parents who grew up during the Depression and understood the need for members of a community to help one another couldn't turn down.
"When we closed the Center [in July of 2005], the seniors manned the whole operation," said Sue LaMondia, outreach coordinator of the recently reopened Hampden Senior Center. "The Food Bank supplies the basic groceries, but our seniors have coordinated some of the extras that people get in the [monthly] bags."
LaMondia was referring to the fresh bread and eggs, donated by a local grocery store, which supplement the monthly selection of non-perishables that Schneider said include such things as a protein source "usually peanut butter," a starch, like crackers, fruit or juice, and vegetables.
Volunteer Joe Lawrence collects the eggs on his way back from the Food Bank, where he picks up the already-filled grocery bags every month.
Last Tuesday, the volunteers sorted the bread and eggs and supplemented 22 bags for residents on the July list.
Volunteer driver John Shay and his grandchildren eight-year- old twins John and Nathaniel, and five-year-old Zachary, who were visiting from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania stopped by and filled their car's trunk with bags to be delivered to people who have difficulty getting to the Senior Center to pick up their food.
The eight year olds told Reminder Publications they have done food deliveries like the Brown Bag with their Boy Scout troop back home, and were happy to help out.
Any Hampden resident interested in learning more about enrolling in the Brown Bag Food Program can contact Sue LaMondia at the Hampden Senior Center at 566-5588.