Our Neighbors' Table Increases its Capacity to Help

Lyndsey Haight shares how expanding Our Neighbors Table to a repurposed facility will improve food security and access

Photo by Aaron Doucett on Unsplash
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Editor’s note: This is one in a continuing series of guest opinions about fostering environmental stewardship. Safeguarding local food supplies in a sustainable fashion is vital to our overall security. The series is coordinated by ACES, the Alliance of Climate and Environmental Stewards.

Today, rising household costs have increased the severity of local food insecurity beyond that of 2020. Families with children are relying on Our Neighbors’ Table for 33% more food than they were in 2020. Working individuals need more from ONT to make ends meet.

Eight years after the 2008 recession, local food insecurity rates were still on the rise. As we look at the horizon after the 2020 crisis, we see it takes more than a village to tackle the challenges of food insecurity in our communities.

It takes many villages – each connected at the local, grassroots level to the specific needs of its members and interconnected to each other and the regional and state resources that can leverage the economies of their larger size. Creating a “hub and spoke” structure, in which local organizations can better access local and regional sources of fresh food, produces a more efficient and seamless result for all those needing food, support and hope.

That is why ONT, as part of the Seacoast Food Provider Network, is building a regional center to meet the challenges on the regional “spoke” connected to the larger “hub” of the Greater Boston Food Bank. This regional center then becomes a localized “hub” for the multitude of regional agencies providing access to food in our communities.

This regional center addresses our network’s two immediate challenges to delivering regional food security: Inadequate food inventory and inadequate logistical infrastructure. More specifically, there is limited distribution space and limited food storage for both dry and refrigerated food. We also share need for a pipeline of able-bodied volunteers as well as appropriate vehicles to transport food.

For the 15 members of our network, our new Salisbury-based repurposed 24,000-square-foot facility will create significant dry and cold storage; include fruit and vegetable storage for crops gleaned from local farms; house regional volunteer recruiting and training; and create a GBFB cross-dock to increase access to food for local agencies in the broader Lower Merrimack Valley who currently have limited or no access to GBFB food. ONT will also make our trucks and vans available to transport food across partner sites.

The pandemic only increased challenges to accessing food in the state and region. It also highlighted the importance of finding more ways to share knowledge and resources and working collectively.

Access to the GBFB cross-dock will expand the reach of the centralized food bank without adding the pressure of more demand at their central warehouse and will reduce the number of trucks traveling from our region to Boston. The shared storage facility and coordinated truck routes will allow our network to redirect even more locally grown and produced surplus foods from landfills to homes.

Delivering food security to this region does start at the village level and will only be successful with local leadership and involvement. But success at the local level depends on leveraging limited financial resources to not only deliver food but create a sustainable infrastructure across our communities with effective underpinning from the larger regional and state partners. That’s the goal of the Seacoast Food Hub – move forward, together.

For more information, please visit our website:

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about the author
Lyndsey Haight

Lyndsey Haight, MSW, is the Executive Director of Our Neighbors’ Table (ONT), a post she has held since 2010. At a very young age, she was inspired by the spirit of Mahatma Gandhi that this world provides enough for everyone and has shaped her life’s work to create strong and just communities. Ms. Haight has 24 years of experience in the Social Work field and nonprofit administration and leadership. Her portfolio encompasses a broad range of coalition building, organizational development and change management from leadership transition, corporate restructuring, mergers, strategic planning, systems development, and capital campaigns and projects, all with a focus on results and impact. Her greatest achievement is when ONT declared Amesbury its first food-secure city in 2018. She now leads the organization toward its vision of establishing universal food access across all 12 towns of Massachusetts northeastern Essex County by 2029.

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