There was a lively discussion this past week on a Facebook group for Winchendon residents. A conversation about local stores had several people commenting on the lack of a grocery store and why a store couldn't move into the space vacated by the IGA in 2017. It was apparent that some people in town had never heard the whole story, so I made a long post explaining why Winchendon doesn't have a grocery store. This sparked quite a lively conversation. It also deepened my own ongoing thoughts about this issue.

Winchendon needs two things, desperately. It needs some way of communicating effectively with every single resident, whether or not they have internet access, cable TV, a smart phone, or a car, and regardless of where they live and what their financial situation is. But that's a topic for another editorial.

The second thing Winchendon needs is a full-service grocery store, selling dry goods, canned and frozen food, as well as fresh produce, meat and dairy, in sufficient supply for a town of 11,000 people, seven days a week.

Since the IGA closed, Winchendon has been designated a "food desert" by Community Health Network of North Central Massachusetts (CHNA 9). For more than two years, various businesses and organizations have worked hard to solve this dilemma through a patchwork of solutions. The Winchendon CAC operates as a food pantry, with donated food and supplies from the Worcester County Food Bank. But their food is only available to qualifying low-income clients. The Senior Center serves lunches, but only to seniors, and only lunch, and only five days a week. Not Just Produced sells fresh local produce, dairy products, specialty items and prepared meals, but doesn't carry staples and dry goods, and is a small store. Pharmacies and convenience stores sell limited amounts of non-perishable food and dairy products for comparatively high prices. Farm stands and the Toy Town Market sell fresh local produce, but only in season.

We're much better off with these resources than we would be without them. But they're simply not enough. Winchendon needs a grocery store. And rather than say, "well, we can't have a grocery store, so let's see what we can put together instead," we need to be saying, "We MUST have a grocery store, so let's look at what we need to make that happen." That's what I'm brainstorming right now. Stay tuned to this space for further developments. Meanwhile, if you'd like to be involved with bringing a grocery store back to Winchendon, contact me at

Inanna Arthen