Food on the Move: Allston/ Brighton Mobile Food Pantry

By Madeline Eleazar

Volunteers from GladlyDo and staff from AB/NOC prepare to distribute bags of prepared food to the motel sites.
Volunteers from GladlyDo and staff from A/B NOC prepare to distribute bags of food to the motel sites.

For many families in Boston, keeping fresh, nutritious food on the table is an arduous task.  With stagnant wages and the rising cost of living, many Boston residents are finding it difficult to properly feed themselves and their families.  Fortunately, there are a number of food pantries scattered throughout the city that they can access, whose services provide a much needed resource used by residents struggling to make ends meet.

The Allston/Brighton Neighborhood Opportunity Center (A/B NOC) provides one example.  The center’s main food pantry, which serves the Allston/Brighton neighborhoods daily, has seen their client base grow in recent years.  To meet the expanding needs of the community, they have implemented a new Mobile Food Pantry service whose purpose is to make healthy food options more accessible to families searching for permanent housing solutions who currently live in shelter accommodations in area motels and hotels.  Currently, the A/B NOC Mobile Food Pantry serves about fifty households per month; that’s approximately 200 people!  For this new initiative to be successful, it requires not only the talents and time of the NOC staff, but of community volunteers, eager to lend a hand.

Every third Monday of the month, staff and dedicated volunteers assemble and distribute bags of food to families in the motels.  Volunteers select a variety of shelf-stable items as well as fresh produce that is provided by Food for Free, a volunteer organization based in Cambridge.  Food for Free also assists in the transportation and distribution of the meals, which is no small task!  Volunteers sent from Gladly Do, a volunteer-based organization which serves as a resource for college students and young professionals to locate volunteer opportunities in their area, assist in the preparation of the bags.  There is even an ongoing partnership with the Plymouth Congregational Church, whose members cook, package, freeze and deliver homemade soup to the A/B NOC on distribution day, to supplement the prepared bags of food.

In addition to becoming a mobile operation, the Mobile Food Pantry has also been adding components for other services to aid their clients.  The A/B NOC has formed relationships with community organizations and agencies that frequent the motels to assist families and individuals in completing WIC (Women, Infants and Children) applications, promote job training classes and even hand out applications for temporary employment opportunities.  The Mobile Food Pantry is more than a food pantry; it provides families with some beginning steps and resources to become self-sufficient and successful.

It is only with the help of committed volunteers, the NOC staff and their partners, that the Mobile Food Pantry is able to operate at its current capacity and serve the growing number of families in need of food assistance.  If not for their time, effort and resources, homeless families living in Allston/Brighton area motels would be hard pressed to obtain food items that would provide nourishment, peace of mind, and not to mention lessen the financial burden of purchasing fresh produce and goods.

For more information on ways to get involved in Allston/Brighton or in any of ABCD’s Neighborhood Sites, please take a look at our individual and group opportunities. You can also contact Carmen Farias, Volunteer Coordinator, at 617-348-6591 or Madeline Eleazar, Recruitment/Volunteer Assistant, at 617-348-6387 or reach both via email at volunteer@bostonabcd.org.

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