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Executive director Patty Stern at Loaves & Fishes Food Pantry in Ayer.  SUN/Julia Malakie
Executive director Patty Stern at Loaves & Fishes Food Pantry in Ayer. SUN/Julia Malakie

DEVENS — An insulated food truck for the Loaves & Fishes Food Pantry was included in the final version of the state’s fiscal 2022 budget, which Gov. Charlie Baker signed July 16.

Loaves & Fishes will receive a $50,000 appropriation. The money will help the pantry purchase an insulated box truck used for picking up groceries from the Greater Boston Food Bank. Before the coronavirus pandemic, the pantry relied upon a local company to supply a truck and driver for the pickups. While other companies pitched in with a truck or driver after that support was lost, having access to both wasn’t always feasible.

With the need for a permanent solution within the pantry’s control clear, it enlisted the help of state Sen. Jamie Eldridge.

“We were delighted to learn of the state budget support for the purchase of an insulated box truck for Loaves & Fishes. This funding is coming at a critical time as we have been struggling to find a reliable way to retrieve our orders from the Greater Boston Food Bank. We are beyond grateful to Senator (Jamie) Eldridge (D-Acton) for his ongoing support of the Pantry and particularly for his advocacy with this project,” Patricia Stern, executive director of Loaves & Fishes, said in a statement.

Eldridge was confident the appropriation would pass, given the important role the pantry plays in the local community.

“Loaves & Fishes has been serving the most vulnerable members of our community for decades,” Eldridge said in a statement. “Especially during the pandemic, they stepped up at a time when our community needed it most. I’m happy to have secured a $50,000 earmark for an organization that has done so much for residents in the area. These funds will allow Loaves & Fishes to expand their delivery capabilities and reach even more families in need.”

State Rep. Sheila Harrington, R-Groton, shared in the excitement.

“I am thrilled that Loaves and Fishes got this much needed funding. They do so much supporting the surrounding communities and they deserve financial support from the commonwealth,” Harrington said.

Loaves & Fishes is based in Devens and has been serving the Nashoba Valley since the 1980s. The volunteer-driven pantry serves residents of Ayer, Devens, Dunstable, Groton, Harvard, Littleton and Shirley.