Monday, May 27, 2024

Cambridge residents Neighbors line up for food in Central Square in November. (Photo” Lou Jones)

The Cambridge Community Foundation has awarded $40,000 in surprise, need-inspired grants to 11 neighborhood food pantries and programs. The foundation called the gifts the first in a series planned to distribute donated funds quickly back into the community to help nonprofits address emergency issues including food insecurity, housing insecurity and shelter for the homeless, cash for urgent needs, access to connectivity and emergency child care.

The grants in this round range from $2,000 to $5,000 and are administered from the Cambridge COVID-19 Emergency Fund. The recipients are:

bullet-gray-small Cambridge City Growers (Coast Community Fridge)
bullet-gray-small Community For Us, By Us (The Bridge Fridge)
bullet-gray-small Community Fridge at Harvard Square
bullet-gray-small CRLS Falcon’s Market
bullet-gray-small Mass Ave Baptist Church – Project Manna
bullet-gray-small My Brother’s Keeper (grocery gift cards)
bullet-gray-small Pentecostal Tabernacle Food Pantry
bullet-gray-small Salvation Army – Cambridge Food Pantry
bullet-gray-small St. James’s Episcopal Church – Helping Hand Food Pantry
bullet-gray-small St. Paul Parish Food Pantry
bullet-gray-small St. Paul A.M.E. Church Food Pantry

The grants focus on food because Massachusetts has seen the country’s highest percent increase of residents facing food insecurity (up 59 percent since 2018), according to The Boston Globe. Greater Boston Food Bank data show that in Greater Boston and Cambridge, one in eight people are food insecure, suggesting more than 15,000 Cambridge residents depend on food pantries and free food deliveries.

“For a lot of our clients, it’s been a sudden, car-accident kind of loss, where one day you’re fine and the next day you can’t feed your children, your elders or yourself,” said J.T. Minor, who directs the Helping Hand Food Pantry operated by St. James’s Episcopal Church. Their monthly clients have increased from 65 households in September to 100 this December. “We didn’t know this grant from the Foundation was coming, but we’re grateful that it came at such a needed time around the holidays.”

Recipients include long-standing community anchors such as church pantries and newer efforts such as The Port neighborhood’s “Bridge Fridge” and the Coast Community Fridge, new community refrigerators where neighbors can take what they need and share what they can, as well as My Brother’s Keeper’s “A Moral Movement” campaign to distribute gift cards for groceries. “This winter will be long and hard for many,” said Geeta Pradhan, president of the foundation. “We see the need every day, in the food lines near our Central Square office and throughout the city. Our nonprofits large and small have their hands full trying to meet the overwhelming need. With support from hundreds of donors, we can get money to these organizations in quick and simple ways.”

The Coast Community Fridge is such a new resource for Riverside that its shed was finished just a few days ago and has yet to get the finishing touches from an artist who will make the fridge “a place,” Cambridge City Growers coordinator Qian Mei said Monday. It’s “for those who have extra food they can donate, and for those who need food [and] will also serve as a wonderful way to store – for distribution, of course – our veggies when we start growing them again in the spring and summer,” Mei said.

The Cambridge Community Foundation will allocate more grants in the coming weeks to address urgent needs as determined by a program committee that meets weekly, Pradhan said. Since early November, the Foundation has raised more than $170,000 in flexible funding for the city’s Covid-19 Emergency Fund, and continues to fundraise. Donate to the fund here.

This post took significant amounts of material from a press release. Read more here.