Martha’s Vineyard is getting hungrier, say organizers and volunteers with Island agencies providing food to those in need.

In the first three weeks of April, the Island Food Pantry served 1,000 Islanders in 400 families, representing a 150 per cent increase over early March, executive director Kayte Morris said.

“We’re also seeing five times the number of new families than we did in February,” she said. “We’re seeing more seniors, too.”

The food pantry has doubled the amount of food it was stocking before the coronavirus pandemic, Ms. Morris said.

“We were bringing about 28,000 pounds of food into the food pantry per month,” she said. The total for April was 56,000 pounds.

Wednesday community suppers to go at the West Tisbury Congregational Church. — Jeanna Shepard

In addition to distributing bags of groceries three times a week on Church street in Vineyard Haven, the food pantry has begun delivering to seniors and homebound families through a variety of means, Ms. Morris said.

“For families with children in the school system, we’re delivering through school buses,” she said.

In a collaboration with Good Shepherd Parish and Island Elderly Housing, seniors and people with disabilities who can’t come to the pantry are receiving food deliveries via the senior housing system’s Blueberry Van, Ms. Morris said.

Pantry volunteers are also bringing food to seniors and shut-ins, she said.

“We’re still getting our feet under us with all of this, but we’re working on it,” Ms. Morris said.

While clients no longer can select the items they want from the food pantry stock, Ms. Morris said the pre-packed bags contain groceries that were popular before.

“We’re really focusing on fresh and frozen food, because that’s what people prefer anyway,” she said. Senior clients also receive frozen soups, prepared by Island Grown Initiative at the Camp Jabberwocky kitchen.

Island food businesses have been donating generously to the pantry, Ms. Morris said.

Island Food Products is providing frozen storage for surplus soups and groceries. Grey Barn breads and cheeses, Cinnamon Starship breads, State Road chocolates and Island Grown eggs are among the groceries and Alley’s General Store contributed candy for Easter.

“All that week we had candy eggs, chocolate bunnies and jelly beans in all of the bags that we distributed,” Ms. Morris said. “A woman thanked me, with tears in her eyes, that we had taken that off her plate.”

Family to Family, a program of the Island Committee on Hunger that provides groceries for holiday meals, saw overwhelming demand at its distribution before Easter, director Alicia Nicholson said.

“We did completely run out of food,” Ms. Nicholson said. “We gave away some gift cards we had.” Traffic backups were also heavy, she said.

A total of 236 people picked up Easter groceries at four locations, and volunteers delivered to more than 90 additional households, Ms. Nicholson said, for a total of about 330 families served.

Easter weekend was also a blockbuster for the food baskets program at St. Augustine’s in Vineyard Haven, where hundreds of motorists lined up to receive holiday groceries on Saturday.

Serving Hands, another Vineyard Committee on Hunger program Ms. Nicholson oversees, has added additional pickup spots for its grocery distribution to reduce traffic congestion around its headquarters at the Baptist parish hall on William street in Vineyard Haven. Agricultural Hall in West Tisbury was chosen for its vehicle capacity.

“We’re encouraging people to go to the Ag Hall location, because they have about a three-quarter-mile loop that we can stage cars in,” Ms. Nicholson said.

For pickups at the parish hall, she said, the car line will be staged at St. Augustine’s with a handful of vehicles at a time advancing to William street. Normally held monthly, distributions will take place on May 15 and May 29, Ms. Nicholson said.

Marjorie Peirce, who coordinates the community meal program at the First Congregational church of West Tisbury, said the Wednesday night suppers are at capacity, feeding more than 100 people a week with curbside pick-up and home delivery.

“We’re continuing to honor our promise to the community,” she said.

The Wednesday meal usually ends after April, but Ms. Peirce said she believes that with donations and excess food from the Island Grown Gleaning program and supermarket contributions that she has preserved by freezing, there is enough food to continue into May.

“I just had a feeling our suppers were going to go longer anyway, because of how the economy was, so I put up things,” she said.

“We’re using everything we have.”

More pictures