Spare Change News
The Feed the Hungry Wednesday night meals program at St Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church on Harvard Street in Cambridge has grown rapidly in a matter of four months since its inception last October.
Feed the Hungry has expanded into a community service organization with over 40-campus members. Interest among students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, along with the program’s success in establishing a weeknight meal, are two major factors contributing to its sudden growth.
Benjamin Francis, an MIT senior and program coordinator, said that he worked with a variety of people in the university and community to help develop the Central Square community meal, and make it into an official student group.
The 6 p.m.-7 p.m. Wednesday community meal has a strong partner in St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church.
St Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church represents a church with rich Cambridge history, well over 100 years old and very community oriented.
According to Francis, the Wednesday community meal program has a steady group of 10 to 15 volunteers. This volunteer core group comprises three to five MIT people each week. The largest group of volunteers consists of six to eight church members. The remaining volunteers are people from the community.
The community meals program also has a chef advisor.
The chef speaks with the staff each week and advises them on menu planning.
The MIT volunteer group rotates each week depending on its schedule. The student group consists of over 40 students from a variety of academic majors.
“Many people on campus have expressed interest in our program,” Francis said. “People come when they can in between classes.”
Francis pointed out that the program does not have a large campus following representative of the total university population. Even though it is not well known and is relatively small in size, Francis stated that they have still attracted a good sizable core group of people. The students come from MIT’s Hillel House and three fraternities: Zeta Psi, Sigma Nu and Phi Kappa Sigma.
“The more people hear about the soup kitchen and attend the meals, the more likely the scope of the project will be able to widen,” Francis said. “We would like to expand the overall mission of the project,”
Francis remarked that they would like to build and expand on the success of the Wednesday community meal. The crisis of homelessness in the Greater Boston area presents a very large issue that could benefit from suggestions and new ideas. “We want to broaden our mission to include working with the homeless on employment opportunities within the city,” Francis said. The new focus of Feed the Hungry would include the area of job referral services for people in need of work.
“We would like to integrate our homeless job focus into the community,” Francis said. “We would like to make contact with small businesses.” Francis continued to expound about the proposed job referral campaign. “We would like to pass along job information to the people in the community”, Francis said, “We will do what we can to help people out.”
Francis pointed out that they hope to expand the mission of the project which is to work with the homeless community.
We would like to help match the homeless with employment opportunities. Francis was asked about what job related services his group would like to offer: “Program services would greatly depend on our client population,” Francis said. “Client needs would also be an important factor.”
Deacon Julian Fredie pointed out that St. Bartholomew’ s Episcopal Church is very concerned about hunger and welcomed the opportunity to collaborate with the MIT student group about creating a community meal. As a representative of the church, Deacon Fredie echoed a sentiment that St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church would also like to open the parish hall to community social programs.
Reverend Leslie K. Sterling highlighted that the church would like to broaden its outreach into the community. “We realize that the need for community services is great. We want to reach out to more people in the Central Square community”.
“A Wednesday afternoon drop-in center for people to come to is in the planning,” the Rev. Sterling added. “The church is working on in this in the near future.”
Rev. Sterling continued that a St. Bartholomew’s drop-in center would be an excellent addition to the Wednesday community meals program. “These programs would help the community and strengthen the church’s outreach and services,” Sterling said. “These programs also help to service distinctive cultural groups in our overall Central Square community.”
Deacon Fredie and Rev. Sterling spoke very highly of Benjamin Francis and the MIT student group. They were open to supporting the mission of the Feed the Hungry MIT organization.
With hundreds of homeless individuals documented to be in Cambridge on a given night, the new Wednesday community dinner fills up a night which would not have been possible without the efforts of many.
ROBERT SONDAK is a writer/vendor for Spare Change News