Editorial: Eroding funds a worry for Not Bread Alone

  • Don L. Petigny-Perry, of Springfield, sets out food for volunteers Wednesday at Not Bread Alone in Amherst

Friday, March 01, 2019

While it comes as welcome news that Not Bread Alone will continue to play a key role in the collective mission of making sure everyone in Amherst can get a free meal every day of the week, the 35-year-old program is not on solid financial footing.

That’s concerning for those who rely on the weekly Wednesday evening and weekend meals served up at the First Congregational Church.

The worries stem from an $8,000 budget deficit at the Center for Human Development, the Springfield organization that oversees Not Bread Alone. The deficit is being driven by several factors that have accumulated over the years and are sapping CHD of the $57,000 it needs to adequately run the program each year. Not only has annual money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency been diverted to larger charities, but about a decade ago the town of Amherst removed Not Bread Alone funding from its budget.

These are significant funding holes, especially given that the nonprofit only funds $19,000 of the $57,000 needed to operate Not Bread Alone each year. The rest of the money comes from other sources, such as the annual Shelter Sunday event and individual donations.

The town should look at reinstating its funding commitment, and Not Bread Alone’s army of volunteers — some 3,500 a year — should get aggressive at lobbying their representatives to help CHD plug its budget shortcomings with federal appropriations. Perhaps it’s time for those volunteers to come up with a new fundraising event in which proceeds go directly to Not Bread Alone rather than being divvied up among other social service agencies in town.

And, of course, people should donate either money or time to help out.

It’s the right thing to do, and it’s a small financial gesture in exchange for a big societal win.

This is no small service. Not Bread Alone, with two part-time staff members, offers both Wednesday evening and Saturday and Sunday noontime meals at the 165 Main St. church, as well as holiday meals on Thanksgiving and Christmas. The regular meals typically draw between 60 and 100 people. Meals are provided the rest of the week by other organizations, including the Amherst Survival Center.

In addition, Not Bread Alone supplements the Amherst Survival Center and First Baptist Church as places that act as food pantries for the community, where individuals and families can get bags of groceries.

While officials assert that Wednesday’s Not Bread Alone meal is not in danger, the offering can’t be considered a sure thing in future years.

Losing these meals would cause a huge hole in the community, not just for those with food insecurity but also for the social aspect that the weekly gatherings provide.

For Tibetans, a reason to celebrate

Happy Losar. Tibetans throughout the Valley had even more reason to celebrate the beginning of the Tibetan calendar year last weekend (see front page).

In December, President Donald Trump signed into law the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act, giving much-needed hope to Tibetans throughout the Valley who dream of one day visiting their homeland.

The legislation, championed by Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Worcester, penalizes Chinese officials who bar American officials, journalists and other citizens from freely traveling to Tibet. The law restricts these officials from traveling wherever they would like in the United States.

“It is a small and modest consequence to deal with their repressive behavior,” McGovern said at last weekend’s celebration on the UMass campus.

A happy new year indeed.