BOSTON — A new report from Feeding America shows Massachusetts is the most expensive state in terms of the cost of a meal. The state also has some of the most food-insecure communities in the country, including Suffolk County where more than 107,000 people don’t know where their next meal is coming from, so the Greater Boston Food Bank is thinking outside the box when it comes to fighting hunger.
"We have a health and research team, which is actually the team that I’m on. And we’re one of the first food banks in the nation that I know of to have one of those,” said Rachel Caty, MPH, RDN, LDN, Manager of Nutrition, Greater Boston Food Bank.
Caty says GBFB is also the first food bank in the nation to hire a medical doctor. Among other things, her team investigates the root causes of hunger in an effort to eliminate it.
“We feel no one should be hungry,” said Caty.
Their work is helping people like Kelly Demartinis, who remembers the first time she walked into a food pantry, “The first thing I thought was, ‘I’m the person that donates to a food pantry, I’m not the person that goes to one.'”
Her husband’s job was one of the countless casualties of the recession.
“In 2008, my husband lost his job of 20 years and I was worried about the kids going hungry,” she said.
Now, more than a decade later, she says the pantry is still a part of her life.
“Even though my husband works full time, even now, it’s still not enough,” she said.
Demartinis is just one of the 140,000 people who rely on food brought in by the Greater Boston Food Bank. Food, that’s changed a lot in recent years.
“The vast majority of our clients are coming to us because the cost of living in Massachusetts is increasing and they’re finding it more and more difficult to make ends meet,” said Susan Dietrich, Director, Medway Village Food Pantry.
In the past year, two-thirds of the food handed out by the GBFB was perishable; produce, proteins, and dairy.
“We really talked to our clients and really thought about if I wouldn’t fix this for my own family, I really wouldn’t serve it to my clients either,” said Dietrich.
The food bank’s new website takes things a step further by teaching people how to prepare the food they take home from pantries.
“They could leave with the primary ingredients and the recipe for how to make it," said Dietrich.
It was these high-quality, healthy options that helped Demartinis lose 60 pounds. “In the end, it wasn’t just about food, it wasn’t,” she said.
“We distribute a lot of food, we need money to get that food. So donations are a huge part of that, volunteering at your local pantry is a huge part of that,” said Caty.
The GBFB, which provided 51 million meals to hungry families last year, has an ambitious goal of hoping to eliminate hunger in eastern Massachusetts by the year 2028.
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