Y-business food partnership with farms to grow next year

by Dan Mac Alpine

IPSWICH — The YMCA food drive went so well this year, the Y plans to expand it next year.

Customers and participating town businesses raised around $2,000 for food for 80 area families through a program called Neighbors to Tables, said Chris Bevilacqua, the Ipswich Y’s executive director.

The program ran for May and June, and the Y and the Ipswich Business Roundtable plan a similar program for next year, said both Bevilacqua and Ann Orcutt, owner of AnnTiques on South Main Street and founder of the Ipswich Business Roundtable. 

Bevilacqua blamed the pandemic and economic slowdown for lost jobs and the need for additional food assistance.

The Ipswich Y worked with 15 to 20 town businesses through the roundtable. Businesses collected a minimum $10 donation for the food drive and gave participants discounts or prizes at the owners’ discretion.

The Y then collected the money and bought gift cards for Marini Farm, Shaw’s grocery store, and Market Basket in Rowley.

The Ipswich location of the Open Door Food Pantry, based at Southern Heights, and the Acord Food Pantry on Willow Street in Hamilton then distributed the cards.

The Ipswich Y and the Three Sisters Farm on Jeffrey’s Neck Road also worked together to distribute a few gift cards and discounted shares of the farm’s harvest to Powder House Village.

“We wanted to get fresh produce,” said Bevilacqua, explaining why the Y included the farms in the program.

“Another big part of the program was a cereal drive put on by YMCA Teen Board members in the Ipswich, Triton, and Manchester Essex schools,” he said.

Next year, Bevilacqua said the Y would “expand” the program to include the fire and police departments and the town hall on Green Street.

“The whole goal is to get food to people who need it,” Bevilacqua said. 

From left: YMCA board member Terese Barous, Open Door CEO Julie LaFontaine, YMCA board member Gil Oulette, and Ipswich YMCA Executive Director Chris Bevilacqua (courtesy photo)
Linda Ayala, owner of Ipswich Flowers, collected donations for the program (courtesy photo)
Sheila Halloran, who retired as Doyon principal, with last year’s collection at the school (courtesy photo)