Back in December of 2020, I told you about a passion project started by the Gonsalves family in Acushnet that transformed a farm stand into a pet food pantry. Since December, their success has grown, and most recently got the attention of Celebrity chef Rachael Ray, leaving her in tears after discovering the Acushnet Pet Food Pantry.

After returning from WWII, Kenneth Gonsalves’ grandfather found solace in growing vegetables on their family farm. He grew so many that he would give them away for free to neighbors. That sense of community stuck with Kenneth into his adult years. One day, while he was shopping, he spotted an older gentleman counting out pennies just to buy a can of cat food. He couldn’t help but wonder about other people in his community that may not be able to afford pet food, so he decided to revamp his grandfather’s farm stand into an animal pantry.

After being covered by local media, donations began to pour in, and more publicity for the Gonsalves' project led to Rachael Ray’s team reaching out. Their episode originally aired in April of 2021, but with their episode airing for a second time on Thursday morning, they are top-of-mind again for the pet owners on the SouthCoast.

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“It was a really, really cool experience,” exclaimed Jill Gonsalves, wife of Kenneth, about being on Rachel Ray. The two were faced with a unique television experience due to COVID-19 and were in charge of filming themselves for their episode.

“We had to record everything ourselves and had to upload it to a private drop box,” Gonsalves said. “There was a great team of women that helped us through the process.”

After several levels of interviews, it was time to virtually meet Rachel Ray, and when she appeared on the screen, Ray was overcome with emotion.

“Please just let me say from the bottom of my soul thank you so much for what you do for people,” Ray said through tears. “Just like it’s hard for people to find dignity in taking human food, it’s even harder, I would imagine, to watch a man at a register counting his pennies to feed his cat. What you do is so beautiful.”

Through her brand Nutrish, Ray decided to donate a “truck load” of food and products to their pantry to show support for their incredible organization.

Since then, the Gonsalveses have received donations from around the country alongside supportive and encouraging messages.

But they are adamant that they are still in need of donations.

“I think when people heard that Rachel donated, people assumed we were all set,” explained Gonsalves, which led to an influx of people utilizing their facility as opposed to receiving donations.

Kenneth and Jill’s efforts have been rewarded by the outpouring of support from the community and are so grateful for Rachel Ray’s generosity.

Find the Acushnet Pet Food Pantry on Facebook to stay up to date on its journey and to keep this haven flourishing.

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