Special to the Sun
Mayor Michelle Wu announced resources that will support residents facing food insecurity during the holiday season and year-round. The City is launching the Find Your Food Pantry campaign led by the Community Engagement Cabinet in partnership with the Mayor’s Office of Food Justice (OFJ). Additionally, beginning on Tuesday, November 15, residents will be able to apply and learn more about SNAP benefits using a kiosk located within Boston City Hall.
“To prioritize food justice in our City, we’re making it easier to connect residents to services they need and ways to make a difference,” said Mayor Michelle Wu. “We’re launching a campaign aimed to introduce residents to organizations that do great work in our communities not just during the holidays, but all year. Together with the new kiosk at City Hall, we’re working holistically as a city to fight food insecurity in Boston.”
Through the Find Your Food Pantry campaign, residents are encouraged to reach out to their local food pantries and other community partners this holiday season and to establish connections with local food pantries and organizations to strengthen Boston’s communities year-round. Residents can find a list of local pantries via the Greater Boston Food Bank on the Office of Food Justice’s website.
In FY 2022, the Greater Boston Food Bank distributed a total of 24.6 million pounds of food through their network of over 100 food distribution partners in Boston. This is a 27 percent increase compared to pre-pandemic distribution in 2019. Much of the food pantry system relies on volunteers. Contributions are critical to help food pantries provide additional food like fresh produce from Massachusetts farmers and staples that are culturally relevant to each community.
“Boston works best when we work together for our shared values, so this year we’re launching a campaign that goes beyond the holiday season,” said Chief of Community Engagement Brianna Millor. “I encourage residents to reach out to their neighborhood organizations and give back – whether that be by donating or spending time volunteering.”
Residents interested in helping support food pantries can connect with their local food pantry directly to identify ways to contribute or volunteer. Needs and hours of operation will vary by organization.
Office of Neighborhood Services (ONS) liaisons will be visiting community partners in their respective neighborhoods during their “Field Fridays” in the months of November and December. The Office of Civic Organizing is helping organize sign ups for residents who would like assistance being connected to volunteer opportunities. Residents can sign up on the website.
Additionally, through a partnership with the state’s Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA), residents will have a new access point downtown to apply for public benefits. A new City Hall kiosk allows residents to apply for SNAP and cash assistance programs, check their eligibility, check their balances, and update their information while doing other business with the City. The kiosk will be located on the mezzanine between the second and third floor at City Hall and will be open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. starting on Tuesday, November 15th.
“Closing the SNAP gap and providing resources for residents ineligible for SNAP help us ensure that Boston residents can access nutritious and culturally relevant food during chronic and acute periods of food insecurity,” said Aliza Wasserman, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Food Justice. “Food pantries are a critical component of the emergency food system. They and other community partners have kept so many families from feeling the dire consequences of food insecurity through their tireless efforts throughout the pandemic.”
“Too many families in Boston continue to struggle to provide for their basic needs because of the lingering economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis coupled with the worst inflation we have seen in over 40 years,” said Catherine D’Amato, president and CEO of Greater Boston Food Bank. “With critical programs like SNAP, school meals and over 100 food distribution partners served by GBFB in the City, nobody should have to go hungry this holiday season, let alone throughout the year. The partnership with Mayor Wu, her Office of Food Justice and their intentionality in working across City Hall departments, particularly with the Community Engagement Cabinet, is the ingenuity and creativity we need to ensure we are driving awareness across every neighborhood and connecting each resident in need to the food resources available to them.”
As food prices increase, SNAP and the emergency food system play pivotal roles in bridging the gap between household income and basic needs. The DTA kiosk and Find Your Food Pantry campaign are part of a multi-pronged approach to reduce barriers to accessing public benefits and food resources in a dignified and easy manner. There are three additional public DTA kiosks in the City, including 1010 Massachusetts Ave. and the Southampton Street Shelter. To find a DTA kiosk near you, click here. DTA kiosks are one approach to reducing barriers for residents to sign up for SNAP.
In 2021, OFJ provided 21 organizations with over $1 million in funding to focus on outreach around safety net resources. Through its community food access programming like Boston Double Up Food Bucks, the Farmers Market Coupon Program, and community grants, the Office of Food Justice works directly with community organizations and businesses, to build stronger community networks for food justice and access to healthy, culturally-relevant food.
More on the Find Your Food Pantry campaign, including a list of food pantries and informational video from Mayor Wu can be found at www.boston.gov/find-pantries. Residents looking to apply for SNAP can do so on the Commonwealth’s website.