We are lucky that in this day and age we can track weather before it arrives and anticipate winter storms. When winter storms will create safety concerns for traveling, the North Adams Schools make a decision on whether or not to have students, teachers and other staff travel to school during or immediately after a winter event. This keeps everybody safe!
At the Berkshire Food Project, we don't have the broad communication range that the schools have - from automated phone calls to television and radio and internet - the district is able to get the word out fast and reach the entire community. We appreciate being able to use their judgement and their far reach to have a consistent policy on winter weather closing at the Berkshire Food Project. If the North Adams Public Schools are closed due to winter weather, we are closed. If the schools are merely delayed, or schedule an early dismissal, we remain open.
In our dining room we anticipate these potential closings - we remind everyone about the policy for a couple of days prior to a predicted storm, we put signs and flyers out and we provide extra take home food and groceries so people can prepare to stay home.
Sometimes people in the community ask us if it's the right decision to close - so I will share some of the reasoning behind this policy.
We are a vital piece of food security efforts in northern Berkshire County. This is a bigger role than simply providing emergency food - most of our diners rely on us as part of their routine. They plan on our meals and food as part of their daily lives. We can work with them to ensure they have enough food while also are remaining safe- and we want them to have the resources to stay safe during bad weather. When schools are closed, there's been a decision that it's not safe for kids to be outside, traveling to school. Kids, like older people, people living in poverty, people with chronic health issues - they are all at greater risk during storms. They may get sick easier, fall easier, not have the appropriate clothing to be safe out in the elements. We don't want to encourage people to go out when they shouldn't and we work hard to help people plan for such events so they can stay home and still eat.
Additionally, the safety of staff and volunteers is of great importance to us. Our volunteers travel from as far away as Vermont and New York, as well as across western MA. We do not want to have them traveling if it's really not advisable to be out. Many of our volunteers are back up child care for their families - if school is closed and parents are required to go to work, they have that family obligation that conflicts with their volunteer schedule. And this is an example of the great importance of our volunteers - our very small staff can't do it alone! We want our staff to stay safe too, but it's hard for them to stay home on snow days - we all want to be at the BFP serving lunch. Safety of our staff and volunteers as well as food safety (having enough people and time to prepare food properly is key to that) also are reasons to follow the winter weather policy.
In a crisis, there are phone numbers on the doors - and we do get emergency calls for food on occasion when we are not open - whether it's later in the day after we have kept our normal hours, on the weekend... but rarely on days that we are closed for weather.
If you think there are better ideas for how the Berkshire Food Project can handle winter weather OR food crisis when we are closed for any reason, please let us know! You can call us at 664-7378, e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org or Facebook message us by going to our page - https://www.facebook.com/berkshirefoodproject . We always welcome your ideas and suggestions!