Brown Bag Brigade collects 1,450 bagged lunches

  • Franklin County Community Meals volunteers collected 1,450 lunchbags of food in the Brown Bag Brigade. At far right is Executive Director Andrea Leibson. STAFF PHOTO/MAX MARCUS

Staff Writer
Published: 2/25/2020 10:10:10 PM
Modified: 2/25/2020 10:10:04 PM

GREENFIELD — 1,450 lunch bags were collected in the Brown Bag Brigade this Sunday, a yearly food drive by the nonprofit Franklin County Community Meals.

The brown bags contains only non-perishable food items, and were purchased, packed and donated by 34 groups that range from families and individuals to local businesses, said Community Meals Executive Director Andrea Leibson.

Every week, Community Meals hosts a free meal in Turners Falls and Orange, and two in Greenfield. The brown bags will be distributed at the free meals in Greenfield and Orange, so that patrons will have food to bring home and keep for later, Leibson said.

The free meals are provided and coordinated by a different group each week. The group setting up the meal pays for all the food, and coordinates all the logistics involved in delivering it to the meal site, preparing it and serving it. Community Meals deals with 40 different groups who set up meals, some of which do a meal every month, some only once a year, Leibson said.

This was the fifth year that Community Meals held the Brown Bag Brigade, but the organization brings in most of its food and most of its funding through other sources and yearly fundraisers, like the Belly Bus food drive in August, and the Foodathon in May in Orange and Athol. The largest single donor of food is the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, Leibson said.

The Brown Bag Brigade, however, is unique in how deeply the donors are involved, Leibson said. Community Meals only collects the donations. The donors do everything else — buy the non-perishables or collect them through group drives, pack the brown bags and deliver them to the collection site at Greenfield’s Second Congregational Church.

It makes the impact of the donations tangible for the donors, Leibson said.

“They participate in a giving activity that’s meaningful for them,” she said. “It makes the difference between someone going hungry, or getting a meal.”

Many of the larger donors are local businesses or organizations, who will organize their own food drives to contribute to the Brown Bag Brigade, Leibson said. This year’s largest donation came from the Franklin County Regional Housing Authority, which gave 277 brown bags. Other notably large donations were from Greenfield Savings Bank, with 116, and the Greenfield YMCA, with 170.

But most of the donors are families and individuals who give smaller amounts, Leibson said. Organizers on Sunday mentioned an 8-year-old girl who donated 25 brown bags. For her birthday, she had asked her friends to give donations for the Brown Bag Brigade. When she dropped them off Sunday, she said she had been donating for six years — since she was two.

“This is a perfect example of our partnership with community members,” Leibson said. “We can’t do it alone. We can only do it when others partner with us.”

Reach Max Marcus at
or 413-930-4231.

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