Marblehead unites with Stop & Shop to feed the community

Photo by Matt Stone

Danette Russo knows what it’s like to struggle to put food on the table. She once had to rely on food stamps and pantries herself, which served as her main inspiration to become the food service director of Community Food Pantry. Russo’s philosophy for her pantry at the Community Charter Public School (MCCPS) involves being a judgment-free, open-door, safe environment for those in need. She has provided relief for families not only in Marblehead, but in Nahant, Salem, Swampscott, Beverly, Peabody, and Lynn all in her first year of operation.

On June 8, Swampscott Stop & Shop store managers Andrew Ziner and Andrew Eskel met with Russo to present her pantry with its second $10,000 check. Since 2019, the grocery chain has sponsored more than 185 food pantries throughout New England. Russo expressed how crucial Stop & Shop’s contributions have been to the success of her pantry.

“It’s been unbelievably huge,” Russo said. “This was all new to me, and they have been a godsend. They have been with me every step of the way, anything that I needed.”

Ziner backed up Russo’s comments by explaining his and Eskel’s role in the partnership. He said they are willing to do fundraising for anything the pantry requires.

“We support Danette with any product that she needs,” Ziner said.

Russo also receives help from MCCPS eighth-graders Molly Bullard, Shannon Koelewyn, and Eliza Ronan. She gave the girls credit for creating the pantry’s social-media presence on Instagram and TikTok.

Maria Fruci, Swampscott Stop & Shop’s manager of charitable giving and community relations, explained the store’s goal in sponsoring food pantries such as Community Food Pantry.

“The purpose is to make sure children can show up to school and they’re not hungry,” Fruci said. “They can focus on their studies, spending time with their friends, and having fun. We’re just really happy to have such partners like Danette and the Marblehead charter school.”

The Community Food Pantry also provides personal-hygiene products. Russo has plans to expand further with items such as school supplies, cleaning products, and even clothing in the future. She emphasized how even though it may come as a surprise, her pantry is a necessity in the Marblehead community.

“Everyone thinks ‘Oh, Marblehead,’ by the name. But the need is everywhere,” Russo said.