Food for Free

Over the past three years, Food For Free, a Cambridge-based food recovery organization, has created partnerships with two prominent local food corporations: Boston Organics and the Greater Boston Food Bank. Their purpose is to deliver food to people facing food insecurity in Greater Boston with a population of 106,000 and a median household income of $69,000.

Under the leadership of executive director Sasha Purpura, Food For Free has created a new two-tier partnership with Boston Organics, a metropolitan Boston food corporation delivering boxes of organic and local food to subscribing households. Boston Organics not only allows for the pickup of the previous week’s surplus food from their Charlestown warehouse, but it also helps in the delivery of food boxes to new Cambridge clients once a month. This food is inspected for quality and re-boxed by Food For Free for the Home Delivery Program.

Before January 2013, the Home Delivery Program physically dropped off food boxes to 60 homebound clients who are unable to go to their local food pantry because of illness, age or physical disability. As of January 2013, this program has been expanded by 20 percent with Boston Organics’ help.

“We typically collect between 500 to 2,000 pounds of food weekly,” Purpura said. “The typical delivery boxes contain 40 to 50 pounds of food and at least half is fruit and veggies—some of which comes from Boston Organics and some from other sources or gleaning. We try to include a variety of other items like cheese, tuna, soup, canned fruit, canned peas, peanut butter, pasta, pasta sauce, rice, beans, oatmeal, apple sauce and frozen meat.”

Purpura elaborated that Boston Organics has helped Food For Free to add a second day to the Cambridge Home Delivery Program. This expanded partnership enables Boston Organics to provide a van, a driver, and a driver’s helper to pick up and help deliver the food boxes to the new Home Delivery Program clients once a month. This new collaboration helps Food For Free to increase the Home Delivery Program by 20 percent, or 12 new clients. Purpura pointed out that they hope to add 8 new clients by the end of the year. The total amount of food delivered by the Home Delivery Program amounted to 28,000 pounds in 2011.

Food For Free has created a transportation partnership with another prominent local food organization: the Greater Boston Food Bank. This transportation partnership is the result of a two-year-old program that delivers food from the food bank to Cambridge-based food programs that lack their own transportation. Transportation partnership member agencies can order anything available at the food bank, the same as agencies with their own transportation. Food For Free simply collects it and delivers their order.

According to their newsletter, the Food For Free transportation program started out in 2010 with 11 Cambridge food programs and at present has grown to 12. In its first seven months the Transportation Program delivered 500,000 pounds of food to Cambridge food programs for distribution to their clients.

“We deliver to 12 agencies located within the city. We launched this program after another organization had been performing this service and was no longer able to continue due to a cut back in funding,” Purpura said.

25,000 people are served by Food For Free in the tri-city region of Cambridge, Somerville and Boston, representing a total of 83 agencies. Cambridge represents the largest of the three cities served by Food For Free, with 80 percent of the member programs.

—Robert Sondak

Robert Sondak is a vendor and a writer for Spare Change News.

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