Open Door Opens … Well, Its Doors


It’s been nearly five years since The Open Door purchased the former food cooperative on Emerson Avenue in Gloucester, and this month, after a pandemic and nearly $4.4 million expansion project, the Open Door’s Food and Nutrition Center opened last week for in person dining.

It was a great milestone for sure.  But it was hard to notice that anything at The Open Door’s food pantry hadn’t been going smoothly.  During the last four years of construction, the community nonprofit hit records for food distribution to the tens of thousands of clients in the region—from Ipswich to Manchester, Essex, Rockport and Gloucester—who depend on The Open Door for food and services.

The renovated 17,000-sqft facility includes a larger, modernized teaching and commercial production kitchen, dedicated meal packing room, fulfillment center, client meeting areas, additional cold and dry storage, offices, and flex space.  Other areas were also restructured and modernized to maximize space and improve workflow.

The renovated facility brings a lot of benefits.  There’s more space for kitchen prep, which means The Open Door can better meet demand for meals and even take on more meal contracts throughout the community.  The team can also offer more pre-prepped “healthy choice” options for clients.  Besides food prep benefits, the new space has more storage to accept more donations, and that’s a great thing, according to The Open Door President and CEO Julie Lafontaine.

During the pandemic, The Open Door’s food pantry pivoted from traditional food distribution to online ordering and pick-and-pack package fulfillment that readied groceries every week for either pick up or delivery.  These continue to be a fundamental part of how clients benefit from the food pantry.  

But in the last year the organization hit many important milestones in its renovation that had been paused during COVID after the organization purchased its new facility in 2019.  The project finally broke ground formally in June 2022 and, by last year, the fulfillment center was completed in May, the kitchen was finished in August, a ribbon cutting for the expanded food pantry took place in the fall and, finally, the entire project was completed last month.

In-person, dining is available by reservation for one afternoon sit-down meal per day.  Clients can double up and take home groceries and ready-made meals when they leave.