Contact MVFB

Find Food Fast »

Our new pantry map and schedule is now live!


Semi-annual ‘Pantry Raid’ raises 17,000 lbs. of food… and counting

Here’s an article featured in the Lowell Sun written by Marie Donovan, Sun Correspondent

LOWELL — Students from throughout the city and beyond joined teachers, parents and neighbors Saturday as Merrimack Valley Food Bank volunteers collected more than 17,000 pounds of food in a semiannual “Pantry Raid” to help those in need.

“Last year at this event, we collected 25,000 pounds, so we welcome donations within the next week,” which the food bank staff hopes will make up the difference, MVFB Community Relations Coordinator Debbie Callery said.

There was a great turnout of volunteers, who helped transport donations of items such as pasta, canned vegetables, peanut butter and cake mixes, as well as paper towels, to the food bank warehouse at 735 Broadway St. in Lowell. The food bank will be open to accept additional donations Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“This is where it all comes together,” said Amy Pessia, executive director of the food bank.

“At Lowell Catholic, all morning we filled three bins on that truck,” Pessia said, pointing to a vehicle in the parking lot adjacent to the food bank’s loading dock, where another group of volunteers was helping to load bags from trucks into bins to be placed in storage.

“Each bin weighs an average of 500 to 600 pounds,” she said.

“At this event, we probably used 250 to 300 volunteers,” said Callery, who was participating in her sixth food drive.

Volunteers included students from Lowell High School’s National Honor Society, Lowell Catholic High School, Greater Lowell Technical School and UMass Lowell, the latter of which was represented by a fraternity and members of the university’s accounting society.
Families also spent the day helping out.

“There were families galore. Some of them come back year after year and they’ll get the same route,” said Callery, who brought several of her own family members, including 7-year-old Ella McAnespie, to help out.

“There are students here from our student council, our debate club and my

The Merrimack Valley Food Bank collected 17,000 pounds of food donations on Saturday.

Sun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our MyCapture site.
graphics classes,” said Greater Lowell Tech instructor Sonia Dickson, who also brought her son, 10-year-old Jake Randall, to volunteer. Dickson drove her slate of volunteers in a donated school van.

“We drove around Pawtucketville and just started picking up bags. We went back and forth picking up bags for a couple of hours,” said Michael Rivera, a freshman in the graphics shop at Greater Lowell Tech.

A Title I reading instructor at the school, Panagiota Athinelis of Chelmsford, said the food bank’s pantry raids and other fundraisers, where students sometimes do face painting for younger kids while the rest of the family helps out, are just a couple of the community-service activities Greater Lowell Tech partakes in throughout the school year.

“We do a lot of work with The Alternative House, mainly with our kids working with the children in their summer camp,” said Athinelis, adding that the school’s at-risk students are among those who help out.

“It’s actually fun and it’s something nice to do, to help other people in need,” said Phedelia Boakye, a sophomore cosmetology student at Greater Lowell Tech.

“This is my third or fourth year participating. We get a lot of students coming back asking, ‘When are they doing it again? Our kids are very giving,’ ” said Dickson.

Pessia said the food bank serves about 70,000 people per month.
“From October through January, we have all those food drives that companies and churches do for us. We do this twice a year, in March and in the middle of September, because that’s usually when we find the donated items tend to be running out,” Callery said.

Last week, the food bank assigned volunteers to drop off brown paper bags to homes in Dracut and Lowell’s Belvidere, Highlands and Pawtucketville neighborhoods. Callery had teams of three volunteers assigned to certain routes and on Saturday, volunteers returned to pick up the bags, with assistance from Personal Movers, an affiliate of a nonprofit called Move For Hunger that gathers non-perishable food items that people leave behind when they move.

Read more: