Welcome to Beneficiary Spotlight, where we chat with a representative from one of our beneficiary organizations about the amazing work they do here in our community. This time around, we spoke with Judy Beckler, the Interim Executive Director at Women’s Lunch Place in Boston.
What is Women’s Lunch Place?
Women’s Lunch Place was founded in 1982 by two visionary women volunteering at a men’s shelter who witnessed women dressed as men to get a bed. They observed women on the streets during the day with no safe place to have a meal and rest when the overnight shelters were closed.
Today, Women’s Lunch Place addresses this need by providing a safe, welcoming daytime shelter for women experiencing poverty or homelessness. We offer a supportive & dignified community, healthy meals, and individualized services to encourage women to make positive changes in their lives.
What types of programming do you provide?
Women’s Lunch Place provided 106,201 healthy meals in FY 2018 to women living in poverty. Our holistic approach — which includes the WLP Healthy Meals Program, direct care services, and interventions — mirrors the public health model and continues to be the most effective and successful in fostering meaningful, sustainable life changes. We provide women the opportunity to improve their lives while making healthy choices about food, increasing access to and information about health, mental health, substance use disorder treatment, participating in supportive services including housing assistance, job search, legal aid, art therapy and wellness activities.
Can you tell us a little about the people you serve?
At WLP we view diversity through a wide lens and accept every woman regardless of race, national origin, immigration status, age, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, faith, criminal history and educational background. We are a diverse community with women whose first language is Spanish, Haitian Creole, Mandarin, Cantonese or English. Women served at WLP have faced discrimination and been marginalized. WLP welcomes every woman unconditionally while providing a safe, judgment free, day shelter for 225 women daily and 1,400 annually who are living in extreme poverty and homelessness.
Why is your work important right now?
This year the homeless population in Massachusetts increased by 2,500 people, or 14.2%. This is the largest increase among all states in the nation with an overall increase of 33 percent since 2007. There are now an estimated 20,000 people who are homeless in Massachusetts. We know hunger and food insecurity in the Commonwealth continues to increase, causing an estimated $2.4 billion in health related expenditures in 2016 alone.
Seventy-eight percent of guests rely on the WLP Healthy Meals Program as their consistent source of nutrition and hunger relief. Many lack kitchens and resources to purchase, store and prepare meals. Ongoing poor nutrition results in diabetes, heart disease, and many other health problems. In addition to the physical toll, hunger can lead to depression and anxiety, and affects educational success and job performance.
How did you learn about Lovin’ Spoonfuls?
Women’s Lunch Place has benefited from our partnership with Lovin’ Spoonfuls since 2013. At that time, senior leaders from both organizations met at a grant award ceremony from a mutual funder. Both teams recognized the potential of this strategic partnership immediately. Through the generosity of Lovin’ Spoonfuls and other in-kind food rescue programs, our team prepares breakfast and lunch from scratch using fresh, high quality ingredients to serve more than 250 women each day, allowing us to provide healthy nutrition while keeping our costs low.
How has the partnership been helpful to your community?
Women’s Lunch Place and Lovin’ Spoonfuls’ missions are fully aligned and evident in our shared commitment to social and economic justice. This commitment speaks to the recognition that we live in a community that is rich in resources yet for many living in poverty those resources are inaccessible. The Lovin’ Spoonfuls team pulls in twice a week with beautiful fresh food deliveries to the delight of Chef Sherry and our entire community. This collaboration has enabled WLP to create a more just and equitable community for women living at or beyond the margins in Boston and Greater Boston. More than one-third of our annual food budget is received through Lovin’ Spoonfuls and other in-kind partnerships.
How can people support Women’s Lunch Place?
Women’s Lunch Place relies solely on philanthropy to support our daily operations. We welcome individuals, corporations and foundations to support us through financial and in-kind donations. In addition, we encourage individuals and groups interested in joining a growing number of WLP volunteers. Annually, more than 400 individual volunteers and 120 volunteer groups representing a rich cross-section from our surrounding community with various ages, ethnicities, cultures and a wide range of professional, academic and lived experiences are all contributing to WLP’s vibrant, supportive community.
As part of our Healthy Meals Program, Women’s Lunch Place invites individuals or groups to make a cash donation to provide hunger relief:
- $25 provides nutritious meals for one woman for one week
- $100 provides women fresh fruit for one day
- $450 provides women with food for one day of breakfast and lunch
For more information on how to give, please contact: Lorraine@womenslunchplace.org