In 2011, CENTRO received its first state contract to provide health care programming, beginning its evolution from being solely a social services agency focused on providing supports to area Latino households.  Today, CENTRO is the largest multi-cultural, multi-linguistic, minority-led health and human services delivery system in central MA, serving in excess of (8,700) households across (51) MA cities and towns, with (35%) of our persons served being non-Latino. The important heritage of CENTRO’s Community Supports programming (Food Pantry & Community Supports Department) provides us a critical understanding of our clients’ needs and holds us all true to our mission statement.

CENTRO is committed to and capable of making a difference in the lives of the populations we serve.  As laid out in our CENTRO VISION 2020 Strategic Plan, CENTRO has been making the investments necessary to become a 1-stop solution provider to low-income households seeking help to improve the social determinants of their health – their food insecurity, housing needs, employment, transportation requirements, as well as any other relevant services. Upon build-out of our service model/programs, no other provider in the area will be as valuable to the households in need, NOR to the final payers of the cost of these supports – whether they be MassHealth, Fallon Health Care, or whomever.

Many of us at CENTRO has recognized that the (30+) years food pantry operation in the non-handicapped-accessible basement of our HQs was not the best environment to build a positive (1st) experience from a trip to our pantry.  Unfortunately, across the city, the reality is that the intake and assessment step for new arrivals to food pantries is a brief (7-8) question city and a federal-mandated form asking simply the household zip code, income, number of occupants, and a few other applicable questions.

What hasn’t been taking place is somehow uncovering the additional needs that certainly exist in these households. The premise of this initiative is that a handicapped-accessible, informative Food Pantry and Service Center by CENTRO, staffed with a trained and empathetic Community Health Worker (CHW), will be able to go beyond the past limited intake steps. We can begin to assess where else in our persons’ lives can we support their path to self-reliance and that the CHW can serve as a bridge to supports from CENTRO or other community-based organizations’ relevant programming.

CENTRO’s Food Pantry & Community Service Center will begin operation at 17 Charlton Street, Worcester MA 01608, at 9:00 am on Wednesday, May 12th. For the time being, the hours of operation will be Mondays and Wednesdays from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm, with the addition of afternoon services to be announced in the near future.

Due to the current state guidelines in place for COVID-19, we plan to host a grand opening celebration at a later date when it is safe to do so.