The Greater Boston Food Bank COVID-19 Response

by The Greater Boston Food Bank
The Greater Boston Food Bank COVID-19 Response
Jason Ercolano (left) and Seth Green (right)
Jason Ercolano (left) and Seth Green (right)

“Food is expensive,” Head Chef Seth Green begins. Seth is the man behind the menu at St. Francis House, Boston’s largest day shelter for individuals experiencing homelessness, “which makes the Greater Boston Food Bank so important. It’s an absolute blessing!”

St. Francis House has worked with GBFB as a hunger-relief partner since its inception as a refuge for the homeless in the 1980s.

Seth has been in the business for 40 years, spending the last nine at St. Francis House. Every day, he plans, prepares, and serves, with the help of some volunteers, hot, homemade meals to approximately 600 people experiencing homelessness and poverty who rely on St. Francis House for food every day. Seth estimates he serves around 16,000 meals a month – each complete with a lean protein, a vegetable, a whole grain, and a piece of fruit.

Every Monday, Seth "shops" at GBFB, and plans his entire weeks' worth of meals on Tuesday based on his haul, “We serve breakfast and lunch every day, no questions asked. The people experiencing homelessness who eat here, this may be their only meal of the day, so it must be nutritious, and filling. I do a lot of scratch cooking thanks to the raw ingredients I pick up from the food bank every week – which makes up about 90% of what I use.”

“The delicious food is the carrot we use to dangle to get people in the front door.” Jason Ercolano, Assistant Director of Shelter Services, reinforces the importance of food in helping the houseless: “Our engagement services revolve around mealtimes, it enables us to begin creating positive experiences for our guests, many who suffer from trauma, so they keep coming back, build trust, and access the help they need – whether safe housing, recovery from substances, or just a clean pair of clothes.”

“We wouldn’t be able to do what we do without GBFB,” Jason continues, “We’re saving lives, and food is a critical piece of the puzzle.”



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As well as receiving, Pedro volunteers at Damien's
As well as receiving, Pedro volunteers at Damien's

Pedro and his family came to the Southcoast area from Puerto Rico 12 years ago. Here they found a warm and welcoming community with a multilingual church. It was the perfect place for Pedro and his wife Maria to raise their three children.

While full of wonderful new opportunities, life here has not been without its challenges. In recent years, both Pedro and Maria have been dealing with medical issues that prevent them from working. Not having enough healthy food to eat quickly became a serious concern.

Fortunately, Pedro’s family can always count on generous friends like you. By giving to The Greater Boston Food Bank (GBFB), you enable us to support a network of more than 600 local partner agencies, including Damien’s Place, a food pantry and community resource center in East Wareham.

“Thank God for the big family at the pantry!” Maria says, smiling brightly. “We receive bread, meat, potatoes, carrots, canned soup, bananas, cheese—everything we need, at the holidays and all year long!”

Pedro can barely contain his gratitude as he adds, “The food is beautiful, the pantry is beautiful, the whole team is just beautiful!”

In fact, Pedro is so inspired by the kindness he receives that he volunteers at Damien’s Place every other Saturday morning. He helps set up for the distributions and delivers food boxes to members of his church who don’t have access to transportation.

“Everybody is like my family here,” he beams.

This is the real impact of your gifts to GBFB: You help forge connections that change lives—and strengthen our entire community. Thank you for your dedication to ending hunger across Eastern Massachusetts!

Pedro distributes Family Meal Boxes at Damien's Pl
Pedro distributes Family Meal Boxes at Damien's Pl


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Donated packages of bison, March 24, 2021
Donated packages of bison, March 24, 2021


When the demand for food skyrocketed across Eastern Massachusetts, The Greater Boston Food Bank (GBFB) stepped up to provide for those in need, especially those most acutely affected by this pandemic—our seniors.

Through our network of partner food pantries, GBFB has served roughly double the number of seniors during this pandemic than at the same time last year.

“As we know, seniors are an extremely vulnerable group and many are scared to leave their homes. I’ve really been impressed by our program partners who have stayed open and found creative ways to serve their clients safely,” said GBFB Assistant Director of Programs and Community Capacity Christina Peretti.

Christina oversees GBFB’s direct distribution programs, including our program designed specifically to serve seniors—the GBFB Brown Bag program. GBFB works with 13 different sites in Eastern Massachusetts to deliver monthly grocery bags to seniors. This spring, we saw a 21 percent increase in the amount of food we were distributing at these distributions and a 67 percent increase in the number of clients served, compared to pre-pandemic levels.

Your generous gift helps us meet the need for our most vulnerable residents. 

Like many seniors living on a fixed income, Dinora struggles to keep enough food in her cupboard, especially when trying to stay safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A retired teacher, Dinora lives alone at the Julia Martin House, an apartment complex for seniors in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston. When the COVID-19 pandemic reached Massachusetts in early 2020, the building, like many others, went into lockdown.

“We had to stay only in our rooms at the beginning of COVID. I didn’t see anyone for a month,” Dinora said. “A lot of the people here don’t get outside at all to go shopping for food or anything.”

As the need for food in Eastern Massachusetts dramatically grew due to the pandemic, The Greater Boston Food Bank (GBFB) began looking for new distribution methods and partners who could distribute large amounts of food to the community.

We began working with partners like the city of Boston, to directly distribute 20-pound boxes of fresh healthy food and some shelf-stable items to vulnerable residents across the city, including at senior housing complexes like the Julia Martin House.

“This food is so helpful. It’s good and I can save some money,” said Dinora. “I get all kinds of fruits and vegetables, it’s about a week’s worth of food.”

With food insecurity on the rise across the country because of the pandemic, estimates show that food insecurity rates have increased more in Massachusetts than in any other state.

GBFB is distributing more food now than ever before in our 40-year history. Because of your generous support, we can continue getting healthy food and basic staples to people like Dinora, and all our neighbors struggling with hunger. 


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When COVID-19 and the ensuing economic shock caused a surge in demand for food assistance this spring, community organizations across our service area stepped up to meet the need. In few places was this more apparent than Waltham.

“The increase in demand is something I’ve never seen before. These are my neighbors, families my kids play with, it’s surreal. And it has not slowed down,” said Myriam Michel, executive director of Healthy Waltham, a local health and wellness nonprofit.

Healthy Waltham began partnering with The Greater Boston Food Bank (GBFB) four years ago by helping us run one of our School-based Pantries at the Waltham Public Schools. Before the pandemic, Healthy Waltham was serving about 250 families at the monthly School-based Pantry and about 100 senior households through additional food distributions.

Since COVID-19, however, Healthy Waltham has been serving 600 families each week, taking over the monthly distribution from the schools, and adding two additional distributions each month. They partnered with other local organizations like Brandeis University, the Waltham Rotary Club, local senior centers, and Africano Waltham, a Ugandan community organization to help Waltham residents in need.

According to Myriam, Healthy Waltham has served over 8,500 families and distributed over 250,000 pounds of food from April to September.

“I spoke to someone at the Market whose family member lost their job due to COVID. It’s been hard for them to pay their bills and buy groceries. COVID has had a big impact on this community,” Myriam said. “For many, our food pantries have been a lifeline. We couldn’t have done this without partners like GBFB.”

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When Kelly’s husband lost his job at the height of the 2008 financial crisis, she wondered how she would be able to keep feeding her two young children. “I was in tears when it happened,” Kelly said. “My husband made a good living and I was worried about my kids going hungry.” She looked up resources online and found the Medway Village Food Pantry, located a short drive from her home. “Walking into the food pantry was the hardest thing I ever had to do,” she said. “I’m usually the one donating to the
pantry, not using it.” On her first visit, however, Kelly said she felt welcomed, loved and a sense of community. “I was relieved to put food on the table for my kids,” she said. The Medway Food Pantry is one of the more than 500 pantries, meal programs and emergency shelters in Eastern Massachusetts served by The Greater Boston Food Bank (GBFB). Kelly’s husband is now working full-time again. They
receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) and still use the pantry about once a week. “It’s expensive to live in Massachusetts. I’m able to pay one or two extra bills with the money I save coming here,” she said. Kelly has also lost about 60 pounds in the last few years and attributes it to exercise and the healthy food she gets
at the pantry. “We get carrots and green beans, chicken, pasta—I always bake the chicken, never fried,” she said. Kelly said the pantry is more than just a place to get food, it’s a place where the community can support each other. Her son and daughter, now aged 18 and 19, sometimes come to volunteer at the pantry. “My son built the sign outside for his Eagle Scout project,” she added. “The pantry has been huge for us, They’ve seen me at many different stages of my life,” Kelly said. “I feel blessed and thankful for this place.”

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Organization Information

The Greater Boston Food Bank

Location: Boston, MA - USA
Project Leader:
Asia Ewing
Boston, MA United States
$9,941 raised of $99,000 goal
111 donations
$89,059 to go
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