Food For Free began in 1981 when a group of friends realized that local meal programs were struggling to put food on their tables. With borrowed trucks, these volunteers gathered fruit, vegetables, and bread—food that would have been thrown away—and delivered it to meal programs, pantries, and shelters. Over the next two years, this volunteer effort gained the support of established non-profits and local government. Food For Free was incorporated in 1983 and received 501(c)(3) status in 1985.
Our Food Rescue programs now serve 100+ food programs each year, including not only pantries, meals, and shelters, but also day care centers, after-school programs, clinics, and drop-in centers. In 2016, our food rescue programs distributed 1.95 million pounds of food.
Field of Greens was added in 1991 as a way to increase the amount of fresh, nutrient-dense vegetables available for local food programs. Farmer Ari Kurtz generously gives us use of a quarter-acre of his land at Lindentree Farm, and provides tools, seeds, and invaluable know-how. Each year, our farm managers work with more than 50 volunteers to harvest 4,000-8,000 pounds of vegetables, which we distribute among the food programs we serve.
Food For Free began our Home Delivery program in 2001 at the request of the Cambridge Department of Human Services Programs. Home Delivery served 12 clients in its first year and now serves 90-100 housebound elders and people with disabilities each month.
We launched our Transportation Partnership in June 2010 at the request of the Greater Boston Food Bank. This program picks up food from the food bank on behalf of agencies that do not have their own transportation. The Transportation Partnership will deliver more than 1,000,000 pounds of food over the next year.
In January 2016, we adopted the Cambridge Weekend Backpack Program, adding it to our growing suite of in-school food support services.
While bringing fresh, nutritious foods to existing food programs and to people who cannot access traditional food programs remains the heart of our work, Food For Free supports the local food system in many other ways. We have helped to found food programs, such as the Zinberg Clinic food pantry. We hold educational programs on issues such as poverty, nutrition, and food policy. And, we participate in coalitions such as the Boston Collaborative for Food and Fitness, which seeks to create a long-term change in the ways Bostonians eat and exercise. We understand that hunger is not an issue that can be addressed by emergency assistance alone.