Massachusetts is one of the wealthiest states in the country. Yet every day, hundreds of thousands of people do not have enough to eat. Joe, a lifetime resident of Falmouth, shares his firsthand experiences with challenges that are all too common for permanent residents of Cape Cod.
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Joe opened the refrigerator door, swinging it back and forth as he took inventory of what was inside – some condiments and a few random groceries. Even as a professional chef, there wasn’t much of anything he could make with it.
It had been a few months now since Joe had lost his job at a popular local restaurant, not so uncommon for a service industry job on Cape Cod. He was running through his savings fast, and the seasonal work he had picked up from a friend while looking for a new full-time gig wasn’t paying the bills. His car had just been repossessed, and now his grim-looking fridge had him really worried about being able to feed his two-year-old son.
Joe was born and raised in Falmouth, a coastal town on Cape Cod. In this vacation community, there are two main seasons: “summer” and “not summer.” This seasonal dichotomy is the driving force behind the local economy and as a result, many of the challenges permanent residents face. The Falmouth that Joe remembers from when he was growing up was a lot different than today. Now, kids and young families seem to have been largely replaced by summer vacationers and snowbirds who head back to Florida in winter. Rents and housing prices are through the roof, driven up by second homeownership and vacation rentals. And although employment is steady in the summer, once the weather turns restaurants and businesses slow down. There are a lot more seasonal layoffs than there used to be – the implications of which Joe was now dealing with himself.
Feeling like he was really at a point now where he needed some help, Joe confided in a friend. His friend suggested going to Falmouth Service Center for help—one of Project Bread’s community partners in the region and beneficiary of funds raised by the Walk for Hunger—but Joe was hesitant. After sleeping on it, he woke up resolved to at least go see what it was like.
When he walked through the doors of the Service Center, Joe was greeted warmly by a woman who asked how she could help. “I need groceries for my house,” Joe told her. Soon he was headed back home carrying bags full of food.
It was an overwhelming feeling of relief for Joe, and after he unloaded the groceries, he called his mom to tell her where he had just been. “When you and your brother were little, I went to the Service Center for help too,” she told him. “As a single mom, they were there for me, and they’ll always be there for you too.”
And while he needed it, they were. A few weeks later, Joe landed a job and was back on his feet.
“Single moms, single dads, whole families with their kids, people with no kids, elderly people, people with disabilities, you know, it’s everyone,” Joe recounts. “When you’re there and you look around, you think to yourself, ‘this is Falmouth.’”
Because it’s hard to be a local in a vacation town. Many of Joe’s friends have moved away because they couldn’t make it year-round. Yet the locals are what keep Cape Cod running. They serve the ice cream, fix the bikes, charter the boats and fry the clams. They are what make the Cape so great.
“Some people save their whole lives just to come here for one weekend, and they try to do as much as they can while they’re here. We’re lucky to live here,” Joe smiled. “But it’s hard to make it work. You work every day to be able to stay here.”
In 2018, as part of Project Bread's 50th Celebration Community Investments, we invested $55,600 to increase access to healthy food for residents living in Cape Cod.
A number to call for help
Project Bread's FoodSource Hotline (1-800-645-8333) is a state-wide resource for people who need food assistance. This year, the Hotline responded to nearly 30,000 calls from residents across Massachusetts needing help, 640 of which were from Cape Cod.
Supporting Community Partners
Through our Community Grants Program, Project Bread invested $42,600 in supporting nine community programs on Cape Cod, including the Falmouth Service Center that provided support to Joe. The funds for these grants are largely made possible through our flagship community fundraiser, Project Bread's Walk for Hunger.