Here are some of the most common questions that people ask about the Amherst Survival Center. Please see the program pages for more information about each program area. If you have a question that is not covered, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 413-549-3968.
Can I come to the Amherst Survival Center?
YES YOU CAN! The Amherst Survival Center is available to everyone! There is no eligibility, no documentation, and no ID required. Most of our services are intake-free (all we ask is for you to tell us what town you live in–there is no wrong answer!). We have a parking lot with limited spaces, and we are right on the #33 Bus Route for the PVTA, with a bus stop right outside our building.
Our Food Pantry is limited to residents of Amherst, Belchertown, Deerfield, Granby, Hadley, Leverett, Pelham, Shutesbury, South Deerfield, South Hadley, Sunderland, Ware and Whately, and to those who are currently homeless.
Please note: there is no income, citizenship, or any other requirement for accessing the Food Pantry.
I’m here from another country. Can I come?
Absolutely! Welcome! Many members of our Amherst Survival Center community are international students and their spouses, recent and not so recent immigrants, refugees, and visitors. All are welcome at the Amherst Survival Center. There are no requirements for visas, citizenship, or ID to access our services.
We are working hard to make our services more accessible to speakers of other languages, including translating many written materials and utilizing the amazing language diversity of our volunteers.
Recently, we’ve heard many folks in our broader community express concern about new “Public Charge” laws and fears about immigration policy. We are not a governmental organization. We do not share any individual/personal information about our community members with anyone. We do not require identification to access any program. If you have more specific questions, you are welcome to call before you come in and speak to our Program Director. We’d like to help you feel comfortable coming and getting the resources you need.
How much do services at the Amherst Survival Center cost?
Everything is free thanks to our generous supporters, the businesses, groups, individuals, and religious organizations that donate to us, and all of our incredible volunteers! There should never be a reason why someone is charged for anything provided in the Center.
What is the schedule of programs at the Amherst Survival Center every week?
The Amherst Survival Center is open to the public from 11am-3pm on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays. We are open from 11am-7pm on Thursdays. The Food Pantry and Community Store are also open on the 3rd Saturday of the Month from 9:30-11:30am. We are closed to the public on Wednesdays.
Click here for full program schedule.
What do I need to bring to get food from the Amherst Survival Center’s Food Pantry?
The only thing you need to bring is proof of address for each member of the household (showing that you live in either Amherst, Belchertown, Deerfield,
Granby, Hadley, Leverett, Pelham, Shutesbury, South Deerfield, South Hadley, Sunderland, Ware or Whately).
Proof of address includes anything showing both name and address: a piece of mail, a letter from a landlord, a health card, report card, an ID, or a letter from another social service or benefits provider that has already verified your address (ie: Head Start, Fuel Assistance, social worker), see below.
For children under 18, if you do not have something that shows both name and address, it is also acceptable to provide documentation of their name (insurance card, birth certificate, school ID, etc.).
If providing a letter: Ask your case manager or worker to complete a letter on agency letterhead with the statement “I have verified that the following members of the household (list all names) reside at the following address (list full address).” The letter must be signed and dated and include contact information for the person writing it.
We do NOT require any photo ID or proof of income.
When you enroll for the first time, and once each year, you will be asked to spend about 5-10 minutes answering questions about your family, food preferences and income. Your self-report of income is for statistical purposes only. There is no income cap to access the food pantry. If you need food, you are welcome!
How does the Amherst Survival Center’s Community Store work?
Community members donate gently used clothing, children’s items, shoes, and household goods to The Community Store, trained volunteers sort
through the donations and they are then displayed. Learn more about how to DONATE GOODS.
Shoppers: bring your own shopping bag, and take up to 15 items per day. There are some limits of certain types of items (eg. 1 coat, or 10 baby items). As you shop in the store, place items into your bag. Before you leave, check out at the desk, where your items will be counted.
Many people find themselves bringing things to The Community Store from their own homes before they start shopping for their “new” clothing. Feel free to do so.
What if I have medical needs?
Our health clinic is open Monday afternoons (12:30pm-1:30pm) and Thursday evenings (4:30pm-5:30pm). Please sign up before the Clinic starts if you’d like to see a doctor.
We also recommend that you find a primary care physician. If you don’t have a doctor, the Clinic Coordinator can help make a referral. If you need health insurance, we can help in our resource center on Thursday afternoons.
What if I want to volunteer?
Wonderful! Welcome to the community! We have a range of regular weekly and monthly shifts, one-time and group volunteer opportunities. We’d love to have you! See the volunteer page to learn more and get involved!
I’ve never been there – what should I expect when I walk in to the Amherst Survival Center?
Welcome! We’re so glad you decided to come. When you arrive, you will be asked one question— what town are you from? — there is no wrong answer! You will not be asked for any documentation or to fill out any forms*. Please let the receptionist know that this is your first time here. They will introduce you to the programs we offer and give you a little tour (Click here for a map of Amherst Survival Center services). You will be offered a ticket with a number at the door. If you would like to get fresh produce and bread, take one.
Then, sit down, help yourself to coffee, browse in the community store, or sign up to use the pantry. You are welcome to access any or all of the programs on your first visit. If you are here between noon and 1pm, we hope you’ll join us for lunch. It’s an incredible meal.
*There is a brief intake to access the Food Pantry, and you will need proof of residency. Click here to learn more.
How often can I come?
You are welcome to come to the Amherst Survival Center every day that we are open. Access to our Food Pantry is limited to once a month*.
*if you ride the bus, walk or bike to the Food Pantry, you can split your grocery shop into two pick-ups to make carrying it home easier. Just let the person at the Food Pantry desk know.
When is the Amherst Survival Center closed?
We are closed 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 Indigenous Peoples Day, Veterans Day, Presidents Day and Patriots Day.
In the event of inclement weather, we go by the Town of Amherst closures.
When we are open on days with inclement weather, in rare instances, we may limit program hours based on staffing and volunteer availability. These updates are posted on our facebook page.
Click here for our full schedule.
What’s for lunch at the Amherst Survival Center?
We serve lunch from 12pm-1pm on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. There is always salad, fruit, rice, vegetarian and meat entrees, vegetable and grain side dishes and dessert. There are some vegan and gluten-free options. Most of our produce comes from local businesses, and during the growing season, local farms.
We have a different team of volunteer who cooks each day (think about the show Chopped – they don’t know the ingredients, but they need to make lunch for 100 people in two hours…). Some have specialties (ie. curries, sandwiches, mexican, quiche). Every day it’s a delicious surprise.
We also have a limited number of pre-assembled to-go lunches for people who can’t stay and join us for the meal. Go to the front office to get one.
If you’d like to bring your leftovers home, bring a container.
How do I get produce from Fresh Food Distribution?
You can take home produce, ready to eat foods, breads, and desserts from Fresh Food Distribution every day we are open (except monthly Saturday hours). You can go through Fresh Food Distribution once per day when you are here.
Fresh Food Distribtuion is stocked daily with produce recovered from farms and grocery stores — food they can’t sell (the bananas are ripe, there’s a bruise on the eggplant, they have too many zucchini, yesterday’s bread).
When you come to the Center, get a ticket from reception. The ticket has a random number which will be called throughout the morning. In the afternoon, we stop calling numbers and you can walk in with any number. You select a specified number of fruits, vegetables, desserts, bread and ready to eat items. The quantity varies from day to day, but there is always something for everyone. We do not provide bags to carry your fresh food home, so please feel free to bring your own bags.
Does your Community Store take/accept furniture?
What happens on Thursday nights at the Amherst Survival Center?
We are open until 7pm on Thursday nights and all of our programs are open. (The Food Pantry and The Community Store close at 6:45.) From 4:30-5:30pm, our health clinic is open, and there is a doctor here. We serve a light dinner from 5:00pm-6:00pm. It consists of sandwiches, frozen entrees, pizza, and leftovers from lunch. And in addition to that, we typically show family-friendly movies at 3pm and 5pm, or have another activity. The Resource Center is also open.