“Every day, people are literally choosing whether to feed themselves or their pets.”
That’s Marjie Alonso, a co-founder of the Somerville Foundation for Animals. You may know the foundation as the group behind the annual Somerville Dog Festival, a big, furball- and family-friendly event, the proceeds from which go to various animal charities in the area. But Alonso says she, co-founder Adam Parker and board member Jill Hourihan wanted to directly affect change here in the city, which is why they’re planning to open the Somerville Pet Food Bank.
“We wanted a more immediate impact on our community,” says Alonso, who’s also the executive director of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. “And we saw something happening that we knew needed addressing.”
She explains that for many at-risk groups, including low-income families and the elderly, pets provide important emotional support. Having animals can improve mental well-being, and surrendering them to area shelters—many of which are over-full as it is—is a traumatic life event.
The foundation hopes the food bank will open within the next few months, and Alonso and co. are already working with the Somerville Homeless Coalition, which has volunteered some of its shelves for pet food. She says they hope to partner with other local nonprofits including elder services and existing food banks, ideally creating a network of pet food-stocked pantry shelves at centers that already support vulnerable communities.
“People won’t get themselves help, but they will get their animals help,” Alonso explains, adding that people often forgo food or opt to pay for their pet’s medical bills rather than seeing a doctor themselves. “Our goal is to ensure that no member of our community ever needs to choose between feeding themselves or their pet, and to help keep pets in the homes of at-risk families.”
“There’s a very real chain of events: If you help people’s pets, you help people,” she adds.
The Somerville Foundation for Animals will host a fundraiser to benefit the Somerville Pet Food Bank on Thursday, March 9 at Cuisine en Locale. Tickets are available on Eventbrite.