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Food and Fuel Help Is Available

Emily Weir | Published on 12/31/2022

food and fuel aidAs prices skyrocket this winter more people are struggling to pay for food and fuel. But there are many local, regional, and national organizations offering help with both necessities for Northampton residents. 
Food costs in the Northeast this year had the highest year-over-year rise in more than four decades, according to The Bureau of Labor Statistics. So it’s not surprising that even folks who have never before needed food aid could use some help now. 
Sarah Pease, program director at the Northampton Survival Center, acknowledges that “Sometimes seniors are hesitant to take food from our pantry because they think that other people are more in need than themselves, but we have enough for everyone who needs us.” Spokespeople from similar organizations echoed her encouragement for older adults to inquire about their offerings. 
The same is true for heating costs. The Daily Hampshire Gazette predicted in October, “Prices for electric, gas and oil heat are all expected to jump to some of the highest levels in a decade, with many homeowners paying more than 60% more this winter than last, regardless of how they heat their homes." 
If recent fuel bills are wreaking havoc with your budget, ask for help. Don’t hesitate to apply, says Peter Wingate, energy director at Community Action Pioneer Valley. “We have had over 2,000 more applications [for heating fuel aid] so far this year than the same time last year. But I was in a meeting with the state today, and there is no fear of running out of funds to serve all. We know our elders have worked hard all their life and this is just a small way to pay back.” 

Below are some local food and fuel assistance programs. If you know of others, please let us know.

Food Aid
The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts
The Food Bank
is a hub of food aid for the Valley, having gathered and distributed 2.5 million pounds of food in October and November alone. Executive Director Andrew Morehouse notes, “Everyone has the right to healthy food regardless of their circumstances. Older adults, in particular, deserve to live with dignity and food security. After all, they have spent their lives contributing to family, communities, and society.”
Food Bank services include meal programs and food pantries, a mobile food bank, and the “Brown Bag: Food for Elders” program, which provides a free bag of healthy groceries to eligible seniors once a month at local senior centers and community organizations. Details for these and other programs are in this fact sheet.
Contact: 413-247-9738 or
Northampton Survival Center
The center provides nutritious food and other resources to low-income Hampshire County residents in an atmosphere of dignity and respect. “Eating enough healthy food is essential at any age,” says Sarah Pease, NSC program director. “No one should have to choose between buying food and paying for other expenses like medications or heating.” Pease notes that NSC continues to see a much higher demand for food than before the pandemic. “However, the outpouring of support from the community during this time has provided us with the resources we need to be able to serve everyone who comes to us for help.”
Their services include drive-through food distribution or curbside pickup at the Northampton center, home delivery, or pickup at the Goshen food pantry.
Contact: 413-586-6564 or
Grow Food Northampton
Grow Food Northampton delivers food to 15 local sites twice per week, and to the Northampton Survival Center three days each week. Food is available to area residents even if they have not needed help accessing food in the past.
Contact: 413-320-4799,, or
Highland Valley Elder Services
This Florence-based organization offers home-delivered meals and private-pay options. Older adults can also opt for a hot meal during the week, in the company of others, at one of more than 14 local dining centers throughout HVES’s 24-town area. 
Contact: 413-586-2000 or
Could you use a nutritious meal right now? This standalone soup kitchen serves over 1,500 meals per week between St. John’s Episcopal Church (48 Elm St.) and Edwards Church (297 Main St.). Lunches are available 11:30–12:30 pm Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday–Saturday; dinner is served 6–7 pm Wednesdays. (no Sunday meals)
Contact: 413-887-0500,, or
SNAP Benefits
If you need help buying groceries, the SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program—or food stamps) is available for you. This federal program’s benefits include: monthly funds on an EBT card to buy food; $40, $60 or $80 a month put back on your EBT card when you use SNAP to buy local produce via the Healthy Incentives Program. (See below.)
Contact: 877-382-2363 or Or call the Food Bank’s SNAP line at 413-992-6204 to find out if you qualify and for help applying
HIP (Healthy Incentives Program)
When you buy fruits and vegetables with SNAP at participating farmers’ markets, mobile markets, farm stands, or Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm share programs, you will earn extra money on your SNAP/EBT card.
Contact: 800-645-8333 or

Heating Fuel Aid
Community Action Pioneer Valley
Community Action Fuel Assistance helps warm thousands of Franklin and Hampshire County families every winter. Available to both homeowners and renters, their Fuel Assistance Program helps income-eligible participants afford their home heating expenses. Eligibility is determined by family size and gross annual household income. 

Contact: 413-774-2310, 800-370-0940, or to apply online

Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
The Massachusetts LIHEAP helps eligible households pay a portion of winter heating bills. The program pays benefits of fixed amounts based on household income. An additional benefit is available to eligible households having a high-energy burden. Open to homeowners and renters, including households whose cost of heat is included in the rent, and to those living in subsidized housing.

Contact: 800-632-8175 or

More on Coping with Higher Energy Bills
•   The state attorney general’s office compiled this fact sheet on handling energy bills this winter.
•   If you don’t qualify for income-based assistance, there still may be funds available to assist you. If your household income is between 60 to 80 percent of the state median income, you may be able to receive help from the Good Neighbor Energy Fund
•   Heat Shut-Off Moratorium: From November 15 to March 15, there is a moratorium that prevents companies from shutting off the gas or electric you use to heat your home.