In Need of a Meal on Holidays? Look No Further!

The holidays are a great opportunity to take time off from our usual responsibilities, and spend time celebrating with family and friends. However, this means that, on holidays, Amherst Survival Center and Not Bread Alone do not open to provide free meals to the community. This is where Amherst Community Connection’s Bridge-the-Gap Meal Program steps in: during inclement weather and holidays, Bridge-the-Gap is up and running.This is our third year working to ensure that there is a free meal in Amherst every day of the year. 

To make this program possible, we utilize the funds from our People’s Fund, provided by our generous donors, and take advantage of the space and kitchen the Unitarian Universalist Society of Amherst donates for our agency’s use. Local volunteers from the community help to put the meal together. Our doors are open at 11:00 am and a free lunch is served until 1:00 pm.  Our lunch includes dishes for vegetarians and vegans. Recent menu includes stir-fry rice with spicy tofu, local corns, hotdog and all the trimmings, Boston baked beans, watermelon, lemon meringue pies, and coffee/pink lemonade. We also set up a craft table and have local musicians come in to perform. There will be a table with donated items, like socks, hats, tooth brushes, etc., for participants to take, as well.

We provide this service for these seven holidays: New Year’s Day, MLK Jr.’s Birthday, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, the day after Thanksgiving, and the day after Christmas, averaging about 50 to 80 guests per meal. When Amherst Town Hall is closed, we do open our doors for people looking for a free meal during inclement weather. Last winter, we opened for two days to provide a community meal due to weather.

For many members of the Amherst community, figuring out when and where to eat next is a daily stressor, on top of a number of stressors that low-income and homeless individuals are already tasked to handle. For the local residents, ACC’s Bridge-the-Gap Meal Program is a big help. 

In fact, on Memorial Day two years ago, after spending hours filling out housing application forms, Joe and Hector informed Anna Quan- an office worker of ours- that they were not sure where to get a free hot meal in Amherst. They were homeless, and struggling to make ends meet, at the time. Unfortunately, no soup kitchens were open due to the holiday, so Anna could not give them the immediate help they needed. So, Anna brought this issue to the staff meeting at ACC the following day. We reached out to Amherst Survival Center and Not Bread Alone soup kitchens for help to create the Bridge-the-Gap Meal Program. Together, we help those in need access a free, hot meal no matter the weather or the day.

To continue this program, we need donations to the People's Fund. Each meal served costs ACC about $300. For every $25 you contribute, five residents will be able to get a good free meal on holidays. Won’t you help feed the hungry and give the gift of food and companionship to those in need in our community?

To donate, please make the checks out to: Amherst Community Connections, PO Box 141, Amherst, MA 01004 or click HERE!