Frequently Asked Questions
1. Can I come to the Amherst Survival Center?
YES YOU CAN! The Amherst Survival Center is a fantastic community and resource center that is available to everyone. Most of our services are intake-free (all we ask is for you to tell us what town you live in).
However, our Emergency Food Pantry is only available to residents of Amherst, Belchertown, Deerfield, Granby, Hadley, Leverett, Pelham, Shutesbury, South Deerfield, South Hadley, Sunderland and Whately. The representative from the Salvation Army can only help residents of Amherst, Belchertown, Hadley, Leverett and Pelham.
2. I’ve never been there – what should I expect?
If you come in when we first open (or before 11:30), it may be a bit crowded. But no matter what time you arrive, you will be asked what town you live in. Please let the receptionist know that this is your first time here. S/he will introduce you to the programs we offer and give you a little tour.
If it’s before 11:20, you will be offered a number at the door. If you would like to get fresh bread and produce, take a number. When your number is called, give the ticket to the woman calling the numbers and proceed to the kitchen.
If you arrive between noon and 12:45, plan to come for lunch. It’s an incredible meal.
4. What do I need to bring to get a box of food from the Food Pantry?
You will need to bring an ID, proof of address (proving that you live in either Amherst, Belchertown, Deerfield, Granby, Hadley, Leverett, Pelham, Shutesbury, South Deerfield, South Hadley, Sunderland or Whately), and proof of everyone in your household: a social security card, health insurance card, birth certificate, etc. Expect to take about 5 minutes to answer questions about your family, food preferences, and income. Once you are entered into our system, you can get a box of food once a month.
The box will be full of juice, cereal, rice, beans, tuna, peanut butter, soup, canned fruit and vegetables, pasta, canned tomatoes, frozen meat, bread and some weeks we have milk and eggs. Sometimes we also have fresh fruit and vegetables. This box will be between 30-75 lbs (depending on your family size).
5. What’s for lunch?
We serve lunch from 12-12:50. There is always a fruit salad, a tossed salad, rice, two vegetarian entrees, three meat entrees, vegetable and pasta side dishes and dessert. Most of the time there are vegan options as well. Most of our produce comes from local business, and during the growing season, local farms.
We have a different team of volunteer cooks each day (think about the show Iron Chef – they don’t know the ingredients, but they need to make lunch for 80 people in two hours…). Some have specialties (ie. curries, sandwiches, mexican, quiche). Everyday it’s a delicious surprise.
6. How does the Free Store work?
One of the beautiful sentiments that Jane Holappa, the founder of the ASC had, was “through sharing there’s enough for everyone.” People in the greater Amherst community donate gently used clothing, children’s items, shoes, and household goods to the Free Store, trained volunteers sort through the donations and they are then displayed. Visitors are welcome to take up to ONE bag from the Free Store for their families each day they come to the Survival Center.
Many people find themselves bringing things to the Free Store from their own homes before they start shopping for their “new” clothing. Feel free to do so.
We have seen an unprecedented number of shoppers in the past 3 months. Please consider the other 150 daily shoppers when coming to the store. Through sharing there is enough for everyone.
7. What if I have medical needs?
We highly recommend that you find a primary care physicain. If you don’t have health insurance, come and speak to Brenda from Health Care for the Homeless – she can sign people up for MassHealth or Commonwealth Care on Monday afternoons. You should also talk to a doctor. We have doctors who can see you in our Free Health Clinic on Monday afternoons Thursday evenings.
8. What’s the Fresh Food Distribution Program?
On Mondays, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday mornings a group of wonderful volunteers go to local businesses and farms (during the season) to collect day old breads, pastries and fruit and vegetables that they can’t sell (the bananas are ripe, or one of the oranges in the bag is soft, or there’s a bruise on the eggplant). From 11-11:30 AM, everyone is welcome to get a number at the front door and, when that number is called, to come and get up to five loaves of bread, a dessert and volunteers will distribute the produce (you will have choices). If you can’t make it here before 11:25, don’t worry. We distribute the remaining fruit, vegetables and bread in the kitchen at 1PM. And on Thursdays we take out some more at 3PM and 4:30PM.
You are welcome to come and enjoy the fresh food each day.
9. What happens on Thursday nights?
The Food Pantry is open until 6:45 and the Free Store is open until 7PM. There is a doctor here from 5-6PM. And in addition to that… We typically show movies from 3-5PM and from 5-7PM. At times, instead of movies, we’ll have karaoke, an open mike, or sometimes a concert.
We also serve a light dinner from 4:30-6:30. It consists of sandwhiches, frozen dinners, pizza, and leftovers from lunch. At times a group of volunteers come to make something special.
10. What if I want to volunteer?
Thank you! Welcome to the community! Many people come here and want to give back. Find Tracey and she’ll let you know of the options that are available.
11. How often can I come?
You are welcome to come to the Amherst Survival Center each day that we are open. Access to our Food Pantry is limited to once a month.
12. When are you closed?
We close on Labor Day, Thanksgiving, the day after Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Memorial Day and July 4th. We ARE open on Columbus Day, Veterans Day, Presidents Day and Patriots Day.
13. How much does it cost?
Everything is FREE thanks to our generous sponsors, the businesses, groups, individuals and churches that donate to us, and all of our incredible volunteers!