PEABODY — After 26 years in the basement, Haven from Hunger finally has the whole lodge for itself.
The local food pantry, which also serves clients in Salem and Lynnfield, purchased the building at 71 Wallis St. from the Moose Lodge in late February and plans to make extensive renovations, provide handicapped access and offer more programs.
The nonprofit organization has faced greater demand for services in recent years while coping with cramped quarters, access issues and more donated food than space to store it. In the winter, clients have to stand outside in the cold to wait for service, because there’s not enough room inside. The pantry currently serves 1,500 clients a month and feeds 35 to 50 people at dinners four nights a week.
“We are in a basement that is falling apart,” said Alyse Barbash, Haven’s executive director. “After the significant renovations, the Haven from Hunger will be fully up to code and 100 percent ADA compliant.”
Non-compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act also has prevented the pantry from receiving state or federal funds.
“I want it to be a place where clients want to come in and feel respected,” Barbash said.
Plans are to move the kitchen upstairs and upgrade it to a full commercial setup, expand the pantry area, move the dining hall upstairs, create a new multipurpose room upstairs and adding a covered waiting area outside. The area where clients eat dinner now and pick up bagged groceries will be converted into a “supermarket” with food stocked on rows of shelves, said Barbash. The same types of items will be available, but clients will be able to choose what they want. There will also be lots more windows.
The new dining hall will seat 98 and Barbash is in talks with other agencies to run nutrition classes, dental clinics and other workshops in the new multipurpose room.