Ellen’s storyEllen (name changed) is an elderly Cambridge resident who lives by herself. Each month she was faced with the difficult choice between paying for bills and medications, or buying groceries, and her debilitating arthritis and asthma made it virtually impossible to get to a food pantry. As a result, she rarely ate fresh, nutritious foods, and reports that skipping meals was a daily occurrence. Food For Free’s Home Delivery Program was created in 2001 at the request of the City of Cambridge to meet the special needs of low-income Cantabrigians who cannot access food pantries due to illness or disability—people like Ellen. By 2012, our Home Delivery program was serving 60 clients. Our wonderful volunteers helped pack the 40 lb boxes of food (at least 50% of which was fresh produce), and the trusty Food For Free truck made its rounds once a month. But once a month wasn't enough. The fresh food we delivered lasted our clients about two weeks, so they were still struggling to eat for half the month. Plus, we had another 30 waitlisted clients, and our financial and staff resources were at capacity. How could we further lift the burden of hunger from our neighbors?
Targeted donations, tangible resultsIn 2013, a partnership with Boston Organics allowed us to expand our client base to include everyone on the waitlist. Then, in early 2014, a longtime supporter offered a generous, targeted financial donation to expand Home Delivery even further, allowing us to allot more staff time to the program, increase our food rescue & purchasing power and leverage efficiencies of scale. The result: we doubled our Home Delivery Service in early 2014. Home Delivery now makes two deliveries a month totaling ~60-70 lbs. of food per person—and virtually closes the hunger gap for our clients.
Making a difference feels great!Our Home Delivery drivers and volunteers are gratified to see firsthand how our clients have responded to the program's expansion. Home Delivery Coordinator Matt Crawford reports, “Our clients are so happy to be getting two deliveries a month, especially of fresh fruit and vegetables.” Our recent client survey affirmed that the program expansion's impact:
“Most appreciative of your efforts – especially the twice monthly deliveries, and the warm cordiality of the drivers. Thank you!” “It's a wonderful program. The delivery men are great and polite; you could not ask for better. I love my fruit – it tastes so fresh and lasts longer. Now I feel like cooking. Thank you!” “Having heart disease and in between major surgeries, I'm helped so much by your program. Thank you from my heart & soul.” “I am so grateful for your help, you make me more independent.” “Simon & Matt are so polite & helpful during delivery, very courteous.”“Packing up boxes full of fresh fruit and vegetables and knowing they are getting to those most in need feels great!” says Food For Free Director Sasha Purpura. “Our volunteers clamor for Home Delivery Shifts and we often get more offers to help than we can accept.” Knowing that clients are eating better is also very satisfying. “With the Home Delivery Service doubled, our clients report that they are eating more nutritious foods more often, and struggle far less with hunger at the end of each month.” Ellen is overcome. “I am truly very grateful!” she writes. “I feel more secure and happy knowing I can get something in my kitchen to eat. Thank you, everyone for caring about people like me and others.”