As the coronavirus outbreak continues to impact the City of Boston, an increase of hoarding food supplies have wiped grocery store shelves clean and left vulnerable residents worried about feeding their families. During their weekly meeting, the City Council addressed the increase in food insecurity among residents and discussed possible solutions.
While parts of Eastern Massachusetts were already dealing with high rates of food insecurity, the COVID-19 pandemic has left thousands of people without stable income to pay for essentials such as food. Although food pantries across Boston have adapted around the evolving public health crisis, many are unequipped for such a massive increase in unemployed and food insecure people requiring their services. As supplies dwindle, at-risk volunteers are remaining home for their own safety which leaves these nonprofit organizations short-staffed and struggling to remain open for those in need.
A lack of food pantries in some neighborhoods leave residents at a heightened risk of exposure to the coronavirus for those who have to travel relatively far for essentials. According to At-Large Councilor Julia Mejia, many residents have reported an inability to utilize the ingredients given due to several reasons including dietary, religious, or cultural restrictions, which in turn creates food waste.
Councilor Liz Breadon (District 9) highlighted the various obstacles that food insecure residents are facing due to the coronavirus pandemic such as reduced public transportation, advisories to remain at home, and those asked to isolate because of COVID-19 symptoms.
Councilors Mejia and Breadon brought forth a proposal that suggested allowing small businesses, such as convenience stores and bodegas, to participate in a voucher program that would provide culturally competent necessities to residents, but also help small businesses thrive in the community. Their proposal called on City officials to further discuss accessibility to food pantries with a specific acknowledgment of providing culturally competent food to those suffering from food insecurity.