Meet a Boston Cares member: Volunteers supporting efforts to fight hunger
Rain drops splatter against the roof of the bright green school bus. Inside, the rows of seats have been removed and replaced with shelves along either side of the aisle. Neatly stacked bins line the shelves, each filled with colorful produce – apples, lemons, plantains, ginger, garlic, pears, tomatoes, cabbage and more. The bus is in South Boston, in the center of the Mary Ellen McCormack apartments. Residents wait in line to shop for their produce; when they reach the front of the queue, near the door where students would traditionally get onto the bus, they place their order. It is sent inside the bus where volunteers work together to fill the orders: one volunteer calling it out, another two volunteers filling the bags with fruits and veggies. The shoppers receive their order at the other end of the bus, walking away with bags full of healthy, fresh vegetables and fruit. This efficient process is run by the Fresh Truck team, a mobile market program of About Fresh, which is an organization that is “on a mission to strengthen communities by getting fresh food to the households that need it most.” [i] Hunger and food insecurity have greatly impacted the Greater Boston area during the Covid-19 pandemic. As Boston Cares has partnered with new organizations fighting hunger, and continued partnerships with others, our volunteers have worked hard to combat food insecurity. Meet some of them below.
Ann Hargraves feels that everyone should take a turn giving back to their community. Her turn came 6 years ago, when she retired from full-time work. Ann says she “became a member of Boston Cares when a friend recommended it,” and began volunteering at various projects throughout the Boston area. Ann found her niche in projects fighting food insecurity. When Ann found About Fresh earlier this year, it clicked. Ann is a dedicated volunteer at the Charlestown Fresh truck, volunteering with About Fresh weekly. Ann enjoys this because it is a “small operation that really depends on volunteers to get the work done.” The volunteers work side by side with the About Fresh fulltime staff. It is also very different from other work Ann does, so she appreciates the change of pace. Ann thinks the About Fresh has a great business model, and she always feels safe volunteering there, with volunteers wearing masks, gloves, and social distancing in customer facing roles. Ann’s favorite part of volunteering at About Fresh is that she feels that she is “truly accomplishing something by volunteering at this project,” and it makes her feel good to give back.
Francesco was visiting his longtime girlfriend in Boston during March of this year when the pandemic hit. Restricted from returning home to Italy, Francesco took this as a “sign to stay in the U.S.” So, he married his girlfriend and decided to live here permanently. Francesco became interested in getting involved in his new community, especially as he saw the difficulties people were facing due to the pandemic. He joined Boston Cares in April, volunteering at various projects fighting food insecurity. Francesco has particularly enjoyed the American Red Cross Food Pantry, which he describes as “a workout, as approximately 800 bags of food may be prepared in a day.” He also loves the Boston Living Center, where he prepared food in the kitchen, as well as distributed food to the clients safely – wearing masks, gloves, hair nets, aprons, and changing gloves and washing hands often. Not only does Francesco get to give back to his community by volunteering, but he also says that he “gets to meet other volunteers from various backgrounds and has developed friendships at these volunteer opportunities.”
Francesco has expanded his volunteering beyond Boston Cares and traveled with the Red Cross to support Hurricane Relief efforts in New Orleans at the time of this interview. He says as soon as he is back in Boston, he will be volunteering at his favorite projects again.
Thank you, Ann and Francesco, for your dedication to fighting hunger and food insecurity in our community. Interested in getting involved? Click here for more info.