The program - run by the Alumni Association, the State and Community Affairs Office, the BC Neighborhood Center, the Commonwealth Tenants Association and the Greater Boston Food Bank - is now supplying 200 needy residents with monthly bags of nutritionally balanced groceries.
Commonwealth Tenants Association Executive Director Douglas Wolfson packs a five-pound chicken into a bag held by BC Softball Coach Jennifer Finley at the Nov. 10 packing session at the Commonwealth Housing Development. Kristin Morlok `98 (far left) and Marie Ambros `02 (holding bag in background) were among the students and alumni who participated.
The Food for Families Program started in February as a way to respond to a need expressed by the tenants association. It started with 50 young families who had been affected by cuts in government assistance. Within three months, 100 families were each getting a monthly bag of groceries valued at approximately $35.
Community Affairs Director Jean McKeigue said the University conducted focus groups with CHD residents to gauge the program's success. "The response was fantastic," McKeigue said. "The only criticism was that there wasn't enough for all those residents who needed food, especially the elderly."
The University responded by expanding the program to include 100 senior citizens, many of whom have difficulty getting out to the store.
Food for Families is making a "huge" impact, according Douglas Wolfson, executive director of the Commonwealth Tenants Association. "It's been fantastic. It provides needed resources for both families and senior citizens who have a hard time meeting shopping and financial needs."
Neighborhood Center Assistant to the Director Richard "Moe" Maloney leads monthly sessions where members of BC athletic teams and others pack the bags with groceries. The bags are then left for families to pick up, and are delivered to elderly residents by the BC volunteers.
"We have to double bag them because they get heavy," said Maloney, who added that the athletes are assisted by BC alumni, staff and student volunteers. Afterward, the athletes often stay to play basketball or soccer with youngsters who live at the CHD, Maloney said.
"The bags are pretty impressive," said McKeigue. They include at least two fresh fruits or vegetables, milk, cheese, bread, a large box of cereal, rice, usually a meat product, and other canned and packaged items. "They're always very nutritional," McKeigue added.
The Nov. 10 packing session took on a Thanksgiving theme as volunteers led by members of the Softball Team packed 200 grocery bags with items including chickens, potatoes, squash and apples.
Most of the groceries come from donations through the Food Bank, and the University picks up the cost of buying other, name-brand items to round out the nutritional content.
McKeigue noted that Food For Families is just one of several BC initiatives underway at CHD. BC students have been tutoring young residents for 11 years, she said, and other students volunteer in adult education and senior programs. In all, more than 45 BC students spend time at the development each week, she said.
Said Wolfson, "BC students are always welcome here with open arms."
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