In one week this month alone, just over 920 families in Greater Haverhill were able to prepare and eat healthy meals thanks to the generosity of Bill LaPierre and his team of volunteers.
They provide food through the Angelo Petrozzelli Food Pantry at Sacred Hearts Church in Bradford.
Before the pandemic, LaPierre, who is director of the pantry, said it would serve up to 1,200 families per month as it picked up non-perishable food staples like peanut butter, tuna fish, canned vegetables and cereal. Now, he says the COVID-19 crisis has quadrupled the demand for food on a monthly basis.
Recognizing food insecurity during the coronavirus crisis, Mayor James Fiorentini delivered the first of Haverhill's federal relief CARES Act money — a check for $10,000 — to LaPierre for use at the pantry.
"No one in our city should ever go to bed hungry," Fiorentini said.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was passed by President Trump in March to help local governments cover expenses incurred during the pandemic. Hundreds of millions of dollars also flowed into the Merrimack Valley and southern New Hampshire in recent weeks, tied to more than 6,000 government loans for businesses and nonprofits to do the same, according to data released by the federal Small Business Association.
LaPierre said he is beyond grateful for the city's generosity.
"We've had a lot of support through donations, but most weeks we have to buy food," he said. "The whole city has really been there for us. As the manager of the food pantry for many years, I am extremely proud of the City of Haverhill, because they've been there for us for so many years. It really is a community-based effort."
One of the things LaPierre hopes to do with the $10,000 donation is continue to serve the community with items like meat, paper goods and deli items. Diapers and pet food are also a big draw.
"We can never have enough," LaPierre said.
Food pantries and grocery and meal delivery services are high on Fiorentini's list when it comes to spending federal money locally. The mayor's spokesman Shawn Regan said Fiorentini hopes to also spend money to complete wellness checks on vulnerable elders and provide rental payment assistance to Haverhill residents.