The Berkshires, on the surface, may not appear to have an issue with hunger and food insecurity, but Miss Hall’s sophomores recently learned otherwise.
Pastor Katelynn Miner, the Founder and Director of the Berkshire Dream Center, visited sophomore Horizons students to talk about the work the organization does in the local community. Pastor Miner’s visit came as part of the work the tenth-graders do to connect with the sophomore Horizons theme of place, and also as the School continues to explore broader issues of advocacy.
Founded in 2011, the Dream Center provides outreach and services—a mobile food pantry, free clothing and furniture, a community garden, and other initiatives—from its base at Morningside Baptist Church in Pittsfield. Of particular focus during Pastor Miner’s visits to MHS was how the organization’s mobile food pantry helps combat hunger in the Berkshires.
About 15 percent — or about one in six — of the 128,000 people in Berkshire County live in poverty, Pastor Miner noted. The issue is even more striking in Pittsfield’s Morningside neighborhood, which is classified as a “food desert,” as there is no supermarket within walking distance. “Food accessibility and insecurity overall are significant problems,” Pastor Miner said, “and a major obstacle to creating opportunities for children and families, when so much time is devoted to figuring out where the next meal is coming from.”
The church’s outreach started simply enough, Pastor Miner explained. In 2008, church members started knocking on neighborhood doors and asking, “How can we help?” What they discovered was that hunger was a significant problem. Setting out to do something about it, the church initially bought and delivered five bags of groceries to families. “We did what we could with what we had,” Pastor Miner added. “It began because we had a heart, and we wanted to make a difference, and before long it was ten bags, then fifteen, then twenty.”
The Dream Center started its mobile food pantry in September of 2016 and currently visits nine locations monthly to distribute food. The organization has also expanded its outreach to North Adams and last year reached more than 3,000 people and distributed more than 90,000 pounds of food in partnership with the Western Massachusetts Food Bank.
The sophomores found the presentation interesting, informative, and inspiring. “I was really struck by the visit, especially by the story about how they decided to provide food access to the Morningside community using their van and their perseverance to deliver food for people in need,” said Wendy Wang ’20. “From their experience, I learned that perseverance and love can conquer all difficulties.”
Classmate Ria Kedia ’20 added similar sentiments. “The most interesting thing I learned was that they could reach several neighborhoods within Berkshire County, and that they did not take a day off, even in rain or snow,” said Ria, who noted that the organization began with little beyond an idea. “They started with a passion and the determination to make a difference in people's lives and solve the problem of hunger in Berkshire County. People at our school should look at the Dream Center as an example to advocate for what we believe in and take action into making our vision a reality.”
A key, Pastor Miner stressed, is collaboration. “It is important that you get a group of people together who want to accomplish a goal,” she told the students. “And, if you want to make a difference, do not let someone tell you no, because can’t make a big enough difference. Just start by making a difference.”