Since last spring, I’ve been making weekly food deliveries to the PHA Webster Ave campus. For a while last year, the routine was for me to drive into the back parking lot and leave the cases on the back stoop and call/text Maureen the school nurse who would arrange to pick them up and haul them up to her second floor office. Relatively easy-peasy. This year, Maureen spent the first weeks running between the 3 PHA campuses, so the routine needed to change. I’ve been pulling up as close to the front door of the school as possible, parking illegally with my flashers on while I dodge Webster Ave traffic with heavy crates of fruit. Then one at a time, I haul them in.
- Down the few steps outside.
- Buzz the outer door.
- Wait for the click that tells me the door is unlocked.
- Enter and up the few steps to the main floor. Wait and hope that someone, maybe the same person who buzzed me in notices me and unlocks the second set of doors.
- Then through the second locked door straight ahead down the hall where I stack the boxes outside the nurses office.
- Back down the hall, the steps and out the front door.
Repeat steps 1-6 for as many crates as I have. I get my workout. Earlier in the year, when most PHA staff were oblivious to my efforts, I would sometimes go unnoticed at the door.
But things are changing and doors are opening for me. My last two deliveries were welcomed by staff responding quickly to my buzzes, opening the second locked door for me, offering to help, expressing appreciation. Life is good.
Now I just need to recruit a couple of additional delivery volunteers as backup…
Yesterday was my parent-teacher meeting regarding my daughter’s progress so far this year. I arrived a little early and was waiting in the hallway outside the classroom for the parents ahead of me to finish up. It so happens that my daughter’s classroom is diagonally across the hall from the nurse’s office. And, the nurse is a key partner of mine in getting this food effort going. Since we started getting weekly produce donations from Food for Free, the nurse has distributed those donations by way of a small healthy snack station just outside her door. Sometimes it includes a cooler to keep drinks and other items cooler and fresher. Yesterday it was a large fruit bowl filled with apples and bananas.
While I waited, I watched a mother with two small children walk by, notice the fruit, and instruct her children to each take an apple to eat.
This is what it’s all about.
I LOVE Food for Free! Why? They are a great group of people doing worthwhile work rescuing food that would otherwise go to waste and getting it to people who need it. But really why I love them is that they have made it so incredibly easy for me to access their services. Last year when I first started working on ways to address the hunger problem at PHA, I sent a quick email to Food for Free. Almost immediately I got a response. They were happy to help with weekly donations of produce. Their only challenge was adding another delivery stop to their schedule. When I said I could take that challenge off their hands and pick up the donated produce, we were set to go. No stacks of forms for me to fill out. No official contract to sign. I just had to show up at the agreed upon time and location with my car and load it with healthy produce to bring back to PHA.
So, when Food for Free notifies me of upcoming fundraising events, I make every effort to attend and to get others to join me. On Friday October 24, Food for Free held their annual Party Under the Harvest Moon. It happened to be conveniently located on MIT campus, offered great food and drink, live music, fun conversation, and of course the fundraising silent auction options. (A friend of mine, Diane, came within seconds of winning the weekend in Vermont. Too bad!) And FFF raised $60,000 in this one evening! They certainly know how to throw a good party, and make money while doing so.
Today I had the appointment to meet with MIT’s Community Service Fund. PHA Thrive is a recipient of CSF’s most recent grant cycle, and as a recipient, I needed to go and speak with them to hear more about next steps. As you might expect, next steps are rather routine – where to send the check, how to account for the way in which the money gets spent, how to think about and plan for a final report, etc. But two great non-routine things happened while I was there.
The first great thing was to hear that the Board, that makes the decisions as to which proposals get funded and which ones do not, apparently unanimously supported our proposal! Very cool, very exciting and very validating of what we’ve been thinking all along. Children in the Boston/Cambridge/Somerville area schools should not be struggling with hunger while trying to learn. Hearing this in the meeting made me go back and review the note I received along with the news that we had received their grant.
The trustees are 100% behind this project. We encourage you to reach out to corporate sponsors such as Whole Foods, Star Market, Stop and Shop, and Market Basket. Additionally, if PHA Thrive has a “wish list” of materials, MIT Community Giving is willing to distribute it to departments who hold holiday drives and collections.
The second great thing that happened was as I was leaving, members of the board were arriving for a meeting. I had an opportunity to speak with one of the board members, someone I’ve know for some time but did not know was on the CSF board. She expressed personally great enthusiasm and support for the work that we are doing, and invited me to give a quick introduction to another board member whom I’d never met (and I must admit I gave a pretty good elevator pitch).
And so I walked out as though on air, knowing that a check will be showing up at the PHA Foundation within a week, and we’ve engaged a few more minds and hearts in our drive toward a hunger free PHA.