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Building Better Food Security

Elbow-to-elbow in a well-worn and well-loved kitchen, The Open Door’s five-member culinary team prepares and packages 200 meals to-go daily, more than double the number served pre-pandemic—in addition to preparing more food and meals for other programs. 

The new addition is needed now more than ever. 

This June, The Open Door broke ground on a 7,400 square foot building project to build warehouse capacity, and expand and modernize the kitchen to give the culinary team the infrastructure to make more meals for more people. The project is expected to be completed in spring 2023, contingent on the supply chain or other delays. 

“We have a fantastic culinary team that works hard day-in and day-out to prepare delicious, healthy meals we’re proud to serve. What we need is more space and a modern kitchen that will allow them, as well as the rest of our operation, to reach our full potential,” President and CEO Julie LaFontaine said. “This project is the solution and will help us build the infrastructure for better food security in our service area.” 

Elizabeth, 56, is a teacher suffering from long COVID. The Open Door Community Meals, food pantries, and SNAP assistance programs have kept her and her family afloat since she caught the virus. 

“We felt bad. It was hard to ask for help, to admit we blew it somehow,” Elizabeth said. 

“We’re still lucky. We still have a place to live. We still have fresh food to eat,” She added. “We’ve just been very fortunate to have The Open Door.” 

The new Food and Nutrition Center at The Open Door will join its 26 and 28 Emerson Avenue properties into one campus in Gloucester. The project will support programs serving local people in all corners of The Open Door service area. 

It will build a larger, state-of-the-art teaching and production kitchen, allowing the kitchen team to prepare more fresh meals for all the programs it serves including Community Meals, Senior Soup and Salad, Healthy Choice, Easy Choice, Medically Tailored Groceries, Summer Meals for Kids, and also provide more meals at partnering locations, like the Rose Baker Senior Center and The Grace Center. 

“What’s exciting to me is the people we’ll be able to say yes to in the future,” said Food Service 

Manager Dan Trimble. “We do whatever we can to meet the demand, but I know there’s more need out there." 

The Open Door expects the project will be completed in spring 2023, contingent on the supply chain or other delays. 

For John and Jan Bell, who volunteer weekly to deliver Community Meals, the capital campaign is a no-brainer, as it will expand The Open Door’s capacity to serve more people more food. 

“We’ve delivered more than 1,300 meals and the folks that receive them are incredibly grateful,” John Bell said. “Anything we can do to support The Open Door as it goes forward with its capital campaign...we see the benefits in Gloucester over and over again.” 

It’s our Friday night date night,” Jan Bell said of their weekly volunteer shifts. 

“We deliver meals and we discover parts of Gloucester we never knew existed. We have gone all over.” 

The new building project will provide expanded offices for Client Services/SNAP (Food Stamps), and nutrition education for The Open Door Medically Tailored Groceries program. The project will offer space for private nutrition counseling, workshops, and training. 

Additional dry food storage will allow The Open Door to accept more food rescue and further streamline operations. 

The Open Door is actively seeking to close the gap for the remaining $1.6 million needed to complete the $4.4 million project. 

Those who wish to donate in support of the campaign may email donate@foodpantry.org or call 978-283-6776. 

About the author

The Open Door

The mission of The Open Door is to alleviate the impact of hunger in our community.

To accomplish our mission we use a variety of practical strategies to connect people to good food, advocate on behalf of those in need, and engage others in the work of building food security.