It’s one of those brisk winter afternoons when the constant repetition of lifting and hauling boxes provides us with better warmth than any winter coat could.
My co-worker, Cathy, returns to the back of the truck from inside and tells me, “Don’t feel like you need to hold back – keep the boxes coming, they can always use more!”
The volunteers and staff members at Curtis Hall Community Center in Jamaica Plain joke about getting their exercise quota for the week as they collectively haul close to 1,500 pounds of fresh produce, prepared meals, meat, dairy, bread, and healthy snack items up the twisting accessibility ramp outside.
It’s our second to last stop on a Friday and our truck, Tess, is packed full of delicious food we’ve rescued everywhere from Waltham to Bedford to Cambridge. I push the final box to the edge of the truck and hop down to join Cathy inside the building where she’s waiting to introduce me to Carlene and Nery: the stars of Curtis Hall Community Center’s pantry operation.
Each table is neatly arranged by category, grouped by like-items, and flows in a succinct stroll around the perimeter of the cozy room. My eyes dart from a nearby table with neatly stacked containers of colorful cut fruit paired with piles of clementines, pears, and apples to platters of snack-sized vegetables accompanying ready-to-grab bags of stir fry veggies.
“It’s very nice to meet you! This all looks stunning!” I gush to Carlene as volunteers continue to unpack the freshly-delivered boxes and sort through their contents.
“Oh thank you! The goal is to really let the people have a choice and a say in what they are receiving – they feel dignity in selecting their own food,” she tells me – and she could not be more right.
Many of our partners such as Curtis Hall Community Center, Boston Temple Church, and Women’s Lunch Place (only to name a few!) have all personally touched upon a quintessential philosophy embedded within food access: the importance of choice. With pantry programs organized in such a way which empowers individuals to advocate for their needs, and meal programs designed with menus and tableside service included, each and every person accessing these services builds a sense of agency through their choices.
“It’s not just a ‘take it and go’ system,” Glacier at Boston Temple Church once explained to me. “It’s all community, we help each other out.”
Food access is about identifying the barriers which hinder individuals from receiving crucial resources and devising solutions which enable them to obtain their wants and needs. Lovin’ Spoonfuls is an amazing organization which assists in making that solution easier, but the work doesn’t begin and end there.
Hunger and food insecurity are still stigmatized in public discourse, and yet we are endlessly thankful to work with countless organizations actively working to combat the negative connotation of need by focusing on the power of support. Centering dignity and empowering agency through food access is the key to ensuring that each and every community member receives the support and resources they want and need to thrive.
By Becca Handford
Quarterly, we invite one of our Food Rescue Coordinators to contribute to the blog, shedding light on their time on the road and experiences with our vendor and beneficiary partners.