Sustainable Business Spotlight: Loaves & Fishes Food Pantry

For this month’s Sustainable Business Spotlight, we are featuring Loaves & Fishes Food Pantry based right here in Devens. There are so many incredible social services that support our region, so we are proud to use our platform to lift up Loaves & Fishes as an example of an organization that helps connect local businesses, people, and other organizations to form our resilient regional social network. It is this network that contributes to the sustainable growth of Devens and the equitable health and wellness in our region. 

The Devens Forward Team would like to thank Patricia Stern, Executive Director of Loaves & Fishes, for her time providing us information for this blog post. 

Background on Loaves & Fishes 

Loaves & Fishes Food Pantry turned 40 years old in 2023 and celebrates being able to sustain a necessary level of support to help neighbors who are struggling. Loaves & Fishes’ mission is to provide nutritious food, in an atmosphere of kindness and respect, to individuals in need who reside in their service area of Ayer, Devens, Dunstable, Groton, Harvard, Littleton and Shirley.  

In 2023, Loaves & Fishes provided groceries to nearly 700 families/households and approximately 2000 individuals. 

As a small non-profit they depend on the generosity of the community and region whether businesses, grocery stores, farms, orchards, places of worship, schools, community and civic groups, the Greater Boston Food Bank, or individuals and families. Support comes in the form of cash donations, in-kind donations such as food and personal care items, services (marketing, legal support, landscaping), and volunteer time. Without this broad community support, they wouldn’t be able to continue their mission of providing nutritious groceries to those who are struggling. 

Loaves & Fishes reaches out to the community to make them aware of their important work, the demand for their services, and seeks support. Many may not know that in addition to providing groceries, Loaves & Fishes has counselors who offer a compassionate ear and support with resources, referrals, etc. The groceries they provide serve their primary mission, but also incredibly important is providing an atmosphere of kindness and respect. 

Loaves & Fishes Maintains a Strong Partnership with Devens 

Loaves & Fishes started in 1983 and was a completely volunteer-supported organization to feed neighbors in need, originally with hot meals. Within a year they realized a food panty model was needed and opened a food pantry out of the Federated Church and St. Andrews Church in Ayer. They struggled operating out of multiple locations and not having a centralized operation for a number of years. Then the closure of Fort Devens provided an opportunity. In November 1997, Loaves & Fishes was able to move to one consolidated location to a basement site at 43 Buena Vista (Vicksburg Square) in Devens. The Devens Reuse Plan facilitated this arrangement and Mass Development charged a rent of just $1 per year! The extra space allowed the Pantry to have everything under one roof and to switch to a client-choice system, allowing clients to select their own groceries. Today, the Pantry is operating on a larger scale in its final location at 234 Barnum Road, a reused Army building which has undergone several iterations of renovations to meet the pantry's needs.  

The Pantry is grateful for their partnership with the Devens Enterprise Commission and MassDevelopment through the years. In recent years, DEC has offered monetary support and fresh produce from the Devens Farmers Market. Patty indicates, “The fresh, local produce is amazing and we are fortunate to be able to add it to our inventory to share with our clients. Fresh produce is expensive and yet important for a healthy diet. Fresh produce is something clients comment on truly appreciating.” 

Local Businesses Step Up to Support Our Community and Sustainability 

Businesses have a unique opportunity to promote sustainability by taking it to their customers, their business partners, and the public. Here in Devens, we’re proud to partner with and support many local businesses who support both community resilience initiatives like Loaves & Fishes as well as our sustainability initiatives like adaptive reuse. Together, we are all sharing the mission to make our future more sustainable and resilient.  

(From Loaves & Fishes:) 

Berry Global (formerly Laddawn) in Devens has been a longtime partner of Loaves & Fishes. They provide a variety of plastic bags which we use to package our produce and protein, support us financially, donate specially printed bags for the annual Postal Worker Food Drive, and they also sponsor our Spring Into Action 5K, too!  

Recently they took it to another level – they had a huge inventory of bags just sitting in their warehouse which were originally made for the packaging of Ford Motor Corporation’s mass production of N95 masks during the Pandemic. Owen Richardson, Vice President and General Manager, contacted us to see if we could use the excess bags.  

We gladly accepted these bags AND with Owen’s permission, we have been sharing them with six other pantries to whom we provide trucking service – Acton, Bedford, Pepperell, Townsend, and two Medway pantries! Community collaboration at its best! 

Other local businesses and organizations that regularly support the Pantry include: 

  • TaraVista 
  • Clear Path of Veterans of New England 
  • Devens Fire Department 
  • Little Leaf Farms 
  • Parker Hannifin 
  • Watson Marlow 

and many more! 


Want to help? There are many ways community members can help Loaves & Fishes: 

  • Monetary donations help support bulk purchasing of groceries for distribution and help with overhead costs. The Pantry works hard to keep operational expenses low--$0.85 of every dollar donated goes directly to clients. 

  • Food donations are always appreciated. From soup to cereal, the food is so greatly appreciated. See the most needed list on the website. 

  • You can donate on your own, as a family. This is a great way to teach children the importance of giving. 

  • You can organize a food drive at your business, place of worship, civic group. 

  • Marketing 
  • Fundraising 
  • Event planning 
  • Technology 
  • Painting 
  • Power washing 
  • Floor care 
  • Carpentry 
  • Give your time 

  • Stock shelves 
  • Sort donations 
  • Drive to pick up donations 
  • Join our delivery truck crew 
  • Assemble client orders 
  • Provide clerical support 
  • Join a committee 
  • Most importantly, if you know someone who is struggling tell them about what Loaves & Fishes has to offer. 

Loaves & Fishes also welcomes the opportunity to work with more Devens businesses to serve the region. If you are interested in helping out, please contact the Pantry. See the contact information below.  

Additionally, the Pantry has several events planned in the coming months. See their News and Events webpage to sign up for the Monday, April 8 Soup for your Soul Event, featuring signature soups from local restaurants and an opportunity to visit the Pantry and/or the 2024 Spring Into Action 5K on Sunday, May 5th to benefit the Pantry. 

Loaves & Fishes Food Pantry, Inc. 

234 Barnum Road, Devens, MA 

Mailing: P.O. Box 1, Ayer, MA 01432 

Telephone: (978)772-4627