The program launches today, March 23; its goal is to deliver around 2,000 meals to nine shelters by the end of the week. If this initial phase is successful, the program could continue for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis, potentially involving more restaurants and more shelters. (Restaurants interested in participating can contact Cambridge’s purchasing office.)
An announcement about the initiative from Cambridge Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui and city manager Louis A. DePasquale noted that many shelter programs are currently short-staffed, making it difficult to prepare meals onsite. Cambridge is responding to that need by partnering with restaurants in Central and Harvard squares — aided by the Central Square Business Improvement District and the Harvard Square Business Association — to provide bagged or boxed lunches and dinners.
“By contracting with local restaurants in Central and Harvard Square, where a large majority of homeless programs are located, we are able to minimize delivery challenges, and facilitate the availability of both hot and cold meals to shelters and other sites in both Squares,” Siddiqui and DePasquale said in their announcement.
Mayor Siddiqui has been proactive about sharing useful COVID-19-related updates on her Twitter feed in recent weeks, such as this list of Cambridge food pantries and free meal programs that are currently operating.
Next door in Somerville, there is not yet a similar official initiative, but a number of restaurants have taken it upon themselves to collect donations in order to provide meals to people in need, especially families having difficulty feeding their school-aged children in the wake of the school closures.
Daddy Jones, for example, has already raised over $13,000, using the funds to cook and deliver meals for families in need. (Families can apply for meals here.) Trina’s Starlite Lounge has also been helping feed local families, and Pennypacker’s is encouraging those who need help to get in touch.
In addition, Forge Baking Company (sibling to Diesel and Bloc) has raised over $23,000 and counting, allowing it to provide meals — one for every $5 raised — to local people in need of assistance. Forge is partnering with several local nonprofits, including Community Cooks, to facilitate serving vulnerable populations.
Although this is one of the most difficult times that restaurants have ever faced, these efforts are among the many that the industry has made to help feed those in need, whether that means packaging and delivering meals to homeless shelters, preparing food for healthcare workers, donating bagged lunches for schoolchildren, or setting out free food for anyone who needs it.