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Help Wanted for Open Table

An Open Table donation box at Stow Shaw’s, near the store’s exit.
Ann Needle

By Ann Needle

The scheduled cutbacks in the federal government’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)  coming next month have put private food pantries in the spotlight. For those anxious to help keep the less fortunate in the area nourished — and put some professional and leadership skills to work — the Open Table in Maynard has several openings.

Started in Concord in 1989, this all-volunteer organization marks its 25th anniversary this year, serving a free, weekly dinner to those in need. Its newer Maynard location, in the Clock Tower Place cafeteria, serves those in Maynard and surrounding towns, including Stow, according to Open Table’s Jeanine Calabria. The Concord site hosts a meal on Thursdays, at First Parish Church.

Serving about 100 meals at its Monday night community meals at the  Maynard site, Open Table also operates a food pantry in both Maynard and Concord. Between the two sites, Calabria estimated, “We move about 6,000 pounds of food a week.”

Naturally, this makes for opportunities in several volunteer roles. The first opening is for a volunteer scheduling coordinator. This involves overseeing, managing, and scheduling Open Table’s approximately 300 workers between the community meal and food pantry. Requiring 5  to 10 hours per week, the position calls for someone with good organizational and computer skills, given the Open Table schedule is computerized, Calabria noted. “This is definitely a good challenge for the right person,” she said.

The next role, coordinator of guest services, calls for a candidate to guide and refer dinner and pantry guests to agencies and support services. Ideally, Calabria explained, this person would have experience and education in social work, given much of the time is devoted to helping guests navigate the network of government and social services agencies they may need. This position calls for about five hours of work per week, she added.

For those available on Monday evenings, there is an opening for someone who can check guests in for the community meal and food pantry. The pantry runs on Mondays from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., and the meal from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.

While these are the most vital roles to be filled at the moment, Calabria mentioned the organization also will need a grant writer. Though Open Table’s former president is handling the job right now, Calabria pointed out that, with about a third of Open Table’s monetary donations coming from grants, this is a task that will need a dedicated person over the long term.

Anyone interested in these positions, or any other tasks available, should contact Calabria at jeaninecalabria@opentable.org.

Volunteer Stephen organizes items for a Monday night food pantry.
Ann Needle

No Questions Asked
The pantry offers a grocery bag of food to those who request it, with the policy of “no questions asked.” As with the Stow Food Pantry, Calabria noted that some out of towners feel more comfortable visiting Open Table, rather than the pantries in their own towns.

The community meals in Maynard are overseen by five head cooks, each in charge of one Monday meal per month, Calabria said. She added that all cooks are “ServSafe” trained.

“Our meals are really nutritious,” said Calabria. “We always have a big salad, a vegetable with the dinner, and great protein.” For instance, working with a fish-co-op, she mentioned that Open Table can sometimes build the main entree around fresh fish.
Meals also include dessert — and, once a month, birthday cake, celebrating the guests born that month. Among other special occasion offerings are Thanksgiving turkeys for those who request them,  Calabria added.

With about a third of Open Table’s resources coming from grants, another one-third comes from the Greater Boston Food Bank, Calabria reported. “The rest of it comes from donations from individuals, local farmers’ markets, and people who do food drives.” Calabria also pointed to the generosity of local companies — Shaw’s, Maynard’s CVS, and Acton’s Stop & Shop included — in donating goods.

Those interested in making donations, or finding out more, can visit Open Table’s web site at www.opentable.org.

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