At Food Link, a community organization serving eastern Massachusetts, we have a “simple” vision: a food system without waste, in which everyone has enough. Achieving this vision, however, is far from simple, and the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has put that vision even farther out of reach. In 2020, Massachusetts residents are facing record unemployment, lost wages, and a substantial increase in food insecurity--from 8.4% of households to 16.6% of households as of July 2020. Unsurprisingly, the hardest hit are Black and Latinx households across the Commonwealth.
Food Link staff and volunteers work every day to achieve our vision by being the bridge between distributors and farms with surplus food and community organizations providing nutritious food to people in need. Before the COVID-19 pandemic began, Food Link fought food insecurity by diverting one million pounds of fresh food annually that would otherwise be wasted, thus negatively impacting our environment.
Since the Covid-19 outbreak, Food Link has more than doubled the amount of fresh, nutritious food collected and distributed safely to those in need. While continuing to collect from stores like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, Food Link is also collecting pallets full of food from every part of the food system -- farms, wholesale warehouses, stores, schools, and more. We are taking this food to established community partners and pop-up food distribution centers in towns across eastern Massachusetts including, Chelsea, Lowell, Lawrence, Medford, Waltham, Arlington, and Lexington.
As the United States and Massachusetts face a second (or third) wave of COVID shutdowns, food insecurity will certainly continue to grow. People who have never faced food insecurity will require support and food. Food Link is poised to continue its increased level of food diversion and perhaps grow its program further in December 2020 when it opens the Food Link Hub -- a new, larger operations center. Governmental and societal change are needed to truly combat food insecurity and climate change, as well as the disproportionate impact of these issues on communities of color. Until that happens, Food Link will be hard at work alleviating food insecurity and the damaging environmental impact of food waste in eastern Massachusetts.