SOMERVILLE – During the pandemic, food insecurity rose dramatically. Some organizations, like Food For Free based in Somerville, went from delivering two million pounds of food a year to 7.5 million in just two years.
“I would say the hardest part of my job is not having enough to give to everybody from my truck,” Food For Free logistics specialist, Dominic Carter told WBZ-TV.
We took a ride in the Food For Free box truck with Dominic while he rescued food from local grocery stores and brought it to pantries around the area. He picks up the food in the morning. It’s typically items that grocery stores don’t want on shelves anymore because they are slightly damaged or a day old – but still healthy to eat.
“I hope the food I pick up is enough for them to be satisfied to take home and use their money, that hopefully they do get, and put it in other things that are important like their kids, utilities, and bills and rent,” Carter explained.
When he does his pickups he never knows how much food each stop will get him to fill up the truck. “We like to get as much as we can. So if they flooded this whole truck we’re like ‘great’,” he said.
With their fleet of trucks and drivers, Food For Free said their specialty is coordinating the logistics of food delivery. They move 115,000 pounds of food from food banks and farms through their main facility every week.
The need has grown so much that they’ve had to move locations three times. First, Food for Free was based in a senior center basement. Then, they were in a 3,000 square foot facility, but they outgrew that in six months. Now, they’re in a 12,000 square foot facility and even that is not enough because outside of it they have a trailer that holds all of the food that won’t fit inside.
“I think there are a lot of organizations doing the best they can and unfortunately they’re just scratching the surface. The pandemic really highlighted an issue that was long standing and it’s not going to get better any time soon,” Food for Free operations manager, Ben Engle told WBZ.
They’ll bring trucks full of food to community food distribution sites like the Cambridge Community Center. For them, they receive 8,000 pounds of rescued and bulk produce from Food For Free every week. They’re one of their larger partners, but they help organizations of all sizes.
“We bring as few as 12 boxes sometimes to folks. People are hungry all over eastern Massachusetts so we make sure that we take care of the little guys out there,” Engle said.
“People will say they’re eating healthier than they ever have before because they’re coming to this pantry because they’re getting access to produce that they were not able to afford before,” Cambridge Community Center’s community engagement coordinator Zach Goldhammer told WBZ.
Food for Free says there’s an “extreme demand” for their services and the food they deliver. In response, they’re looking for more volunteers to help package food at their main facility in Somerville. If you’re interested and have a couple free hours, go to foodforfree.org to see volunteer opportunities.
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