Antoine Boucicaut at our Allston motel Family Meals distribution site
“What do you like? Hamburger? Chicken and potato? It [will] make you smart and strong.”
In the hallway of an Allston hotel where homeless families are being sheltered, Antoine Boucicaut opens a Food For Free cooler and jovially offers several meal options to a young boy who has come to collect meals for his family.
It’s not a long walk home—this boy’s family lives together just down the hall in a motel room equipped only with a microwave and a mini-fridge for food preparation.
“There are kids in every motel room,” explains Ross Richmond, Food For Free’s Community Partnership Manager, who worked on the creation of Family Meals.
Children like these and their families are the reason behind our newly launched Family Meals program, which repurposes rescued Prepared Foods into single-serving meals for people in need.
Family Meals: pioneering a new kind of food rescue
Family Meals currently distributes via Feastworthy, our Allston motel partnership, and via Take Home Tuesdays at the K-Lo Market, which serves low-income families with students at the Kennedy-Longfellow School. Our Allston distribution site, now in its pilot phase, is currently serving about 400 meals each week to 75 individuals.
We expect that Family Meals will grow from here. As Sasha Purpura explains, “In 1981, we became the nation’s first food rescue organization. Today hundreds, if not thousands of organizations are doing the same thing throughout the U.S. and the world.”
“Now we are pioneering the next wave in food rescue—prepared food. Millions of pounds of this food are thrown out daily at universities, hotels, corporations, and more. But this food is exactly what’s needed for homeless families in motels with no kitchens, for those working two or three jobs with no time to cook.”
Family Meals transforms surplus prepared foods into user-friendly individual meals for people in need
The power of partnerships
The Feastworthy partnership is coordinated and funded by the Allston Brighton Health Collaborative. Action for Boston Community Development’s Neighborhood Opportunity Center provides logistical and distribution support while their Motel Support Services provides on-site program support. Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program is overseeing a study to track the health outcomes associated with program participation. Charlesview Inc. is an ABHC Steering Committee member and provides storage space. Food For Free packages the individual meals through the work of both staff and volunteers, and our drivers drop off meals as part of their regular delivery routes.
Our food donor partners are crucial: Harvard University, Tufts University, Emmanuel College, and MIT donate surplus food weekly from their dining halls, and Google recently joined as our first corporate food donor partner.
Meeting people where they are
It has always been important to Food For Free that our programs meet people where they are, and provide them with food that meets their specific situation.
As Ross explains, “It’s often a challenge to bring the whole family to a different meal program every night of the week in order to get a healthy meal for your kids.
“Food pantries are great, but if you’re living in a motel, you don’t have anywhere to cook…so the most accessible and affordable option becomes processed food and fast food. With Family Meals, we want to provide an alternative.
“It’s not enough for us as a state, or as a society, to say, ‘Here’s a hotel room. You’re not homeless anymore. Good luck.'”
Antoine Boucicaut of ABCD with Ross Richmond of Food For Free