Those in poverty face many challenges, but one of the most devastating challenges is hunger. Although Massachusetts does its part by enforcing a minimum wage that’s almost $3 higher than the federal minimum wage, the reality is that the benefit of those increased earnings are diminished rather quickly by the high rents in the Boston area. It also doesn’t help that food is one of the most difficult elements of a budget to forecast due to the volatility of food prices.
Hunger affects many people, especially children, who find it increasingly difficult to focus on schoolwork if they haven’t eaten enough, and the problem only gets worse in the summer when many of the safety nets designed to help feed children are inaccessible.
The good news is that there are many resources in Boston to help you get access to food if you are struggling to feed yourself or your family. The largest resource is the Greater Boston Food Bank. It serves people in the nine counties of the Boston area including Cape Cod. It works with over 500 agencies to help provide more than 50 million pounds of food to those who need help. They’re located at 70 South Bay Ave. and can be reached at (617)427-5200.
One of the Food Bank’s most important programs is run through a partnership with Boston Medical Center. It’s a food pantry that provides nutritious food to people who can’t afford it. This is especially important for people who are suffering from conditions such as type 2 diabetes or other diseases that require a very strict diet, which is often out of people’s financial reach. The food pantry also offers food to people looking to eat nutritious food who can’t afford healthier food (which is often much more expensive).
The food pantry is called the Preventative Food Pantry. They also have another excellent option to help the elderly, who are particularly at risk of suffering from hunger. This is their Brown Bag Program, which distributes bags of food. The bags are donated by Shaws to help recipients keep their pride intact and help reduce the stigma that might otherwise prevent people from seeking and accepting the food they desperately need. The food is packed and distributed to senior communities by volunteers.
The Food Bank also helps feed children through monthly school pantries (eight in the Boston Area). It also reaches out to people through their mobile markets. In this way, it serves veterans and people who use WIC. It also partners with community colleges such as Bunker Hill and Bristol and organizations such as the Fall River Boys and Girls Clubs.
Another organization plays a part in serving the hungry in Boston, called Haley House. It runs a number of programs that not only help feed people but also help create a path toward self-sufficiency. Haley House is located in Roxbury and the South End of Boston. It offers a soup kitchen that provides breakfast for men who are homeless or who lack food. This runs weekdays from 5:30 to 9 a.m. and on Sundays from 9 a.m. until noon.
Haley House also has two social enterprises called the Haley House Bakery Café and Dudley Dough. The Bakery Café offers breakfast, lunch and dinner. It also offers weekend brunch. Every Saturday at dinner time, it has community tables, which means you pay what you can afford, and if you can’t afford anything, you still can enjoy your meal and pay nothing.
Dudley Dough focuses on pizza, which it makes with the ingredients from its community garden. It also focuses on providing healthy foods such as produce that are difficult to afford on a budget.
Both programs also aim to help people gain employment. The Bakery Café’s transitional employment program aims to help people who have been incarcerated gain employment skills and help them make a successful return to society. Dudley Dough also has an employment program. Its focus is on teaching skills and providing a living wage to help its employees achieve a solid financial footing.
When it’s profitable, Dudley Dough intends to pay its employees $13.25 an hour. You can visit the Haley House soup kitchen at 23 Dartmouth St. Their phone number is (617)236-8132. The Bakery Café and Dudley Dough are both in Dudley Square in Roxbury.