Our Opinion: Berkshire Food Project’s plans for its first in-person community meal in two years is soul-nourishing news

For the first time in two years, the Berkshire Food Project is having a sit-down meal. It'll be turkey, of course

Since the pandemic's onset, the Berkshire Food Project in North Adams has been distributing meals and groceries entirely to-go several times a week from the church.

That's about to change.

As we approach the week of Thanksgiving, we're in need of good news. Fortunately, the Berkshire Food Project has us covered. The North Adams-based nonprofit dedicated to alleviating hunger and social isolation in its surrounding communities is set to hold an in-person community meal on Monday -- for the first time in more than two years.

Thanksgiving-style meals will be served Monday from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. at the First Congregational Church in North Adams. Berkshire Food Project is teaming up with Chingon Taco Truck. The food truck, which operates seasonally in the Mass MoCA courtyard, will be cooking the turkey, and the meal will also feature roasted vegetables, stuffing, cranberry sauce and pie.

It is heartening to see these community stakeholders come together to resurrect Berkshire Food Project's community meals just in time for the holiday season. When the nonprofit prepared to-go meals last year, they had about 250 takers, so they could get a healthy crowd for Monday's in-person sit-down. While we are out from under the worst of COVID-19, we are still in the process of taking back many of the things we took for granted before suddenly losing them more than two years ago.

Whenever our community reclaims those priceless gems of social joy -- especially on behalf of our neighbors in need -- it is worth celebrating.

Thanksgiving meals open to all in the Berkshire community

Meanwhile, the missions of food pantries and other nonprofits fighting regional food insecurity never stopped throughout the pandemic. It just became harder while need spiked. Still, from the Berkshire Food Project to The People's Pantry in Great Barrington to the numerous faith and community groups providing food and meals throughout the Pittsfield community, these organizations persisted.

Because they had to. Because their neighbors needed help more than ever. Because this lifeline to the vulnerable does not extend itself on its own but is only possible through countless volunteer hours, community partnerships and everyday people doing extraordinary things to meet climbing needs with stagnant budgets.

For some of us, the worst of the pandemic is over. For some who lost their livelihoods, who got behind on their household budgets and never recovered, who disproportionately suffer the effects of inflation and worldwide energy crises, the grip hasn't loosened. Earlier this year, food bank leaders across the county flagged a sharp increase in the number of people patronizing local pantries and free meals.

Berkshire food pantries got busy when the pandemic started. Then came inflation and the loss of relief checks

We ought to heed this signal from the last line of local defense between so many of our neighbors and food insecurity. While many of these organizations receive external funding like state and federal grants, a big part of their budgets come from fundraising and local donations.

In this season of giving, those with the privilege of disposable income and the disposition to donate it might keep in mind these nonprofits' tireless fight to see that no stomach or heart is left empty in our Berkshire community. For this is just as much about community as it is about food. Berkshire Food Project's mission, for instance, targets social isolation as well as hunger, seeking to provide a community round table along with a square meal.

Those most vulnerable to hunger, from homeless folks to seniors on fixed incomes, need and deserve nourishment both nutritional and communal. And for many volunteers, breaking bread with someone they're helping out is all the remuneration they need. Now, after many months, Berkshire Food Project is setting the table for an in-person community meal once again.

It's not quite Thanksgiving yet, but that's some good news we're particularly grateful to hear.