Local activist provides free meals
Next to the Grove Hall post office, a queue stretched back 20 yards as families waited in line for bags of takeout food supplied by the nonprofit group Violence in Boston. On the menu last Wednesday: American chop suey lunches and spaghetti dinners.
Violence in Boston Executive Director Monica Cannon-Grant said she was inspired to start the free meals program when she realized Boston Public Schools were about to shut down. While BPS is providing free grab-and-go breakfasts and lunches at sites across the city, Cannon-Grant wanted to take direct action in her local neighborhood.
“I’m a mother of six kids,” she said. “I know what it’s like when school is closed and you’re struggling.”
Grant teamed up with her friend Donnell Singleton, who owns the restaurant Food for the Soul at 651 Warren Street. The pair raised money from local elected officials including Julia Mejia, Liz Miranda and Chynah Tyler, as well as organizations including the New England Patriots and No Books, No Ball, and began serving the pre-packaged meals, along with other handouts such as hand sanitizer.
“We get up at 5:30 and go to The Restaurant Depot,” she said. “We get all the food we need and prep and cook at Food for the Soul.”
The pair worked with four to five volunteers to prep and cook the food, then distribute the food to a steady stream of local families.
At the start, the meals were available from 12 to 2 p.m. for lunches and 5 to 8 p.m. for dinners. After serving, Grant helped with the cleanup before heading home, often as late as 11 p.m.
“Then we do it all over again,” she said.
Over the weekend, Violence in Boston and Food for the Soul decided to switch the meal program to delivery only.
“We are working closely with Mayor Walsh, The City of Boston, The Boston Health Commission and Health Officials to ensure the safety of all Boston Residents,” read a Facebook post announcing the switch. “We will have a limited amount of volunteers for preparation and packaging. Deliveries by authorized individuals.”
As of last week, the meals program cost $3,000 a day. Cannon-Grant said it’s worth it, given the need in the community.
“We’re going to keep doing this until we run out of funding,” Grant said. “A lot of parents were already struggling before the coronavirus. This just made things worse.”
If you or someone you know is in need of a meal from Cannon-Grant’s program, complete the form at https://forms.gle/5rhwY5iiJ3pQcuie8. For more information on BPS free meal distribution sites for students and families, visit the BPS website, https://www.bostonpublicschools.org/Page/8098.