by Jeff Hall, American Red Cross of Massachusetts
It’s hard to imagine isolated and deserted areas in the greater Boston area, but there are places where people don’t have close access to things others take for granted.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines a food desert as a place ‘vapid of fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful foods, usually found in impoverished areas.’ There are areas and neighborhoods where grocery stores are scarce and farmers’ markets are nonexistent.
Food programs like the Food & Nutrition Mobile Market program run by the American Red Cross of Massachusetts helps bring healthy food, nutrition information and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) outreach to these food insecure areas.
David Andre, Director of Food & Nutrition Programs for the Red Cross in Massachusetts, works with his staff and others, to not only make nutrition possible in areas like these, his team also works to educate and inform area businesses about the help that is needed across the Commonwealth.
The Red Cross Food Pantry, one of the largest in New England, directly serves communities in Boston and New Bedford, as well as provides mobile outreach into places like Lynn and Lawrence. The mobile food program provided 12,000 Massachusetts families with more than 45 pounds of food per month last year. In totality, the Food Pantry provided the equivalent of 2.5 million meals last year to Massachusetts residents.
It takes partnerships with local stakeholders to continue to break into these communities. The Bank of American Foundation is one such partner that provides financial support to the Red Cross of Massachusetts in order to keep our mobile market trucks rolling every week. In Lynn the Red Cross partners with Catholic Charities to find those in the communities that need the assistance most.
Without partnerships with stakeholders, donors and community groups; the American Red Cross Food Pantry would not have the resources necessary to help those in need here in the Commonwealth.
The American Red Cross of Massachusetts operates food pantries in Boston and New Bedford for eligible families and individuals to alleviate food insecurity and enable thousands of families in need of access to nutritious food to focus more of their resources on housing, heat, health, education and social development for their children. Established in 1982, the Boston Food Pantry is one of the largest in New England, serving more than 165,000 people in FY16 (41,000 were children). The New Bedford Food Pantry served more than 24,000 people in FY16.
If you would like more information on how you can get involved with our Food & Nutrition programs, visit us at redcross.org/local/massachusetts/food-nutrition. There you can find information about how to volunteer your time or make a financial donation to these programs that serves so many.