People struggling to afford food, local organizations overhaul operations to meet need

BOSTON — Millions of Americans are struggling to afford food. Think about that. Millions of people in the United States right now might not know where they’ll get their next meal.

The COVID-19 pandemic has magnified inequities facing some marginalized groups. It’s also brought many people into food pantries for the first time.

Boston 25 News anchor Kerry Kavanaugh got an inside look at how community organizations have overhauled what they do to try and meet the need.

The line for the food market outside the Malden YMCA wraps around a long street corner.

“I just, I didn’t ever imagine that we’d be in this position to have this as a primary part of what our Y does, now have three markets,” said Debbie Amaral, President and CEO of the YMCA in Malden.

Amaral oversees the food markets in Malden, Medford and Everett.

She took Kavanaugh inside what used to be the babysitting room of the YMCA which has been converted into a food market where they sort and store the food that comes in. And, so much more is coming in.

“From July 1 through February 1, we did about 250,000 pounds from February 1 to June 30, we did about 800,000 pounds. So just the need has just skyrocketed,” Amaral said. “The numbers don’t lie.”

Kavanaugh visited the YMCA in early September on a day when volunteers and staff were handing out every single USDA food box they get. Nothing went to waste.

“People are getting some fruits and vegetables that used to go to restaurants or used to go to schools that are now being repurposed,” Amaral said. “We don’t really know what it means for a family. This could be gas in the car or it could be medication that someone needs for their family. I think people can assume things just by looking at people. But right now, I don’t think anyone knows what a family is going through who’ve lost their job.”

Another organization that’s also seeing skyrocketing need for food, is ABCD.

Kavanaugh visited their community site in Allston and that’s where she met Elwin Magivney, who lives in the cab on the back of his pickup truck.

That day he was at the Allston site to pick up a free bag of groceries.

“This is it. This is this is my life. This is my home,” Magivney said. Without the help from ABCD he says he’d be starving. After a long hospital stay, he lost his apartment. He now sleeps in his truck in a church parking lot.

“It’s been it’s been tough” Magivney said. “I don’t like this. I’ve always had a place to live. You know, I’ve always paid rent. Always pay my bills. Now I can’t pay anything.”

A September survey by the U.S. Census Bureau revealed millions of people are struggling to afford food.

And, 10.5 percent of adults reported that their household sometimes or often didn’t have enough to eat in the last seven days.

The numbers are even more stark among African Americans and Hispanics.

“I’m very angry on behalf of the people that we try to help across the country, it seems like they’re being ignored,” said John Drew, the president and CEO of ABCD.

He says he’s angry because federal CARES Act money, that’s enabling organizations like ABCD to feed people in need, is running out. And Congress isn’t acting.

So ABCD continues to do what it can. But, the inventory goes fast.

“Please do something,” Drew said. “Do something for those in need.”

To help these organizations head visit the YMCA Malden site and ABCD site.

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