One out of four people in Berkshire County and all of Western Massachusetts suffers food insecurity. They are hungry or at risk of being hungry. In addition, one child in five isn't getting enough food. The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts feeds 235,000 people each year.

This week, two of Berkshire County’s leading non-profits dedicated to feeding the hungry have merged. Mel Greenberg, founder of Berkshires Bounty, and Mark Lefenfeld and Jay Weintraub, founders of Backyard Bounty of the Berkshires, announced the formation of Berkshire Bounty to maximize their efforts to collect and distribute excess fresh produce, meat, fish and bread to those in need in South County and Pittsfield.

For more than twenty years, Mel Greenberg and Phyllis Weiss collected and distributed donated food from local organizations. In addition, they organized a Thursday evening community meal program at the American Legion Hall in Sheffield.

Mel Greenberg explained the mission of Berkshires Bounty: “For the people we serve it may make the difference between going to bed hungry and having food in the house. It lets them know they are not alone, that there are people who understand and are willing to help. That makes a huge difference for people. For me, personally, it makes me feel good to know I'm actually making a difference in people's lives."

Mark Lefenfeld and Jay Weintraub started Backyard Bounty of the Berkshires in 2015 to focus on collecting and distributing excess fresh produce in South County and Pittsfield. According to Lefenfeld and Weintraub: “We’ve been successful beyond our initial expectations, largely due to the generosity of local supermarkets, property owners with fruit trees on their properties and farms, as well as distribution organizations. We’re grateful for contributions from many individuals and grants from the Berkshire Taconic Foundation, the Jewish Women’s Foundation and Berkshires Agricultural Ventures.

Weintraub described the complimentary nature of the two organizations. “Backyard Bounty has been delivering food to many of the same organizations in South County and Pittsfield as Berkshires Bounty. Combining forces makes a lot of sense.”

The new organization, to be led by Lefenfeld and Weintraub, expects to soon be collecting and distributing fresh fruit, vegetables, meat, and baked goods to those in need at the rate of 100,000 pounds per year. Growth will be enhanced by the recent purchase of a van to aid in pickups and deliveries.

Organizationally, the Backyard Bounty of the Berkshires Advisory Board, made up of individuals who have great experience with food insecurity issues, will remain in place, providing continuing guidance to the larger team.

According to Mark Lefenfeld, “Our mission remains unchanged – to gather and distribute quality food to those in need in South County and Pittsfield.”

The revised website provides more information about Berkshire Bounty’s mission, participating food donors, participating food distributing organizations and volunteer opportunities.

If you would like to contribute by donating your time or money, you can do so by going here. Or you can send checks to Berkshire Bounty at 33 Commonwealth Avenue, Great Barrington, MA, 01230.

(press release sent to WSBS from Mark Lefenfeld for online and on-air use)