Dan Ryan looks at an empty plate the same way a painter considers a blank canvas: a starting point for something delectable. But what was once an exciting moment for the chef is now a symbol of anxiety. He constantly worries that he cannot put food on the table.
After being diagnosed with advanced melanoma in 2010, Ryan, 48, a former chef at The Franklin Cafe in the South End and Gloucester’s Franklin Cape Ann, underwent several surgeries and chemotherapy that drained his family’s savings and forced him to quit his job. He and his wife, Tammy, slashed their budget to stay afloat, eventually dipping into the money set aside for food.
Almost 60 percent of Eastern Massachusetts families have had to make the same tough decision in the last year. According to a recent study conducted by the Greater Boston Food Bank, food insecurity continues to be a growing problem in Eastern Massachusetts, with food assistance agencies seeing more needy people in the last 12 months. The increase is mostly because of sudden illness or unemployment.
Dan and Tammy Ryan turned to The Open Door, a food pantry based in Gloucester, to help keep their kitchen stocked and feed their three children, now ages 20, 16, and 8. Their situation transformed Dan Ryan’s perspective on who is hungry. “I saw a mother with three kids struggling, a 90-year-old woman,” Ryan says, “a guy who lost his lobster boat because he couldn’t make payments. I saw people like me.”
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Clients at The Open Door, a food pantry based in Gloucester, are very similar to those serviced here by the Franklin Food Pantry. Thanks to your contributions of time, food, and money the Food Pantry can help our Franklin neighbors.