The Greater Boston Food Bank COVID-19 Response

by The Greater Boston Food Bank
The Greater Boston Food Bank COVID-19 Response
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
Website:
Project Leader:
Asia Ewing
Boston, MA United States
$9,090 raised of $99,000 goal
 
92 donations
$89,910 to go
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