Cooperative for Human Services Inc. launched a food pantry program in partnership with the Food Donation Connection, a national organization headquartered in Nashville, TN that links service providers and other non-profit agencies to the food service industry in order to aid local hunger relief and reduce food waste. The Food Donation Connection introduced CHS to Whole Foods Market, Bedford, MA and Seasons 52, an upscale restaurant in nearby Burlington, MA and encouraged the companies to work together to develop a plan of food redistribution.
People with developmental disabilities tend to live at a relatively low US income level and through this partnership, the Cooperative For Human Services Inc is able to provide the individuals it supports with free food that is high in nutritional value. Meals received from the restaurant are pre-cooked which ensures that individuals with poor cooking skills are afforded a hot meal of the quality served in the finest dining venues.
Every Tuesday morning, CHS employees and individuals who volunteer, arrive at the restaurant to pick up excess frozen meals from the previous days menus. Each week’s offerings are different, ranging from roasted chicken to butternut squash soup. One individual who discovered a personal passion for cooking, volunteers for the pick ups from Seasons 52 in order to meet the restaurant chefs and get a behind-the-scenes look at the daily operation of a professional kitchen. This helped to inspire his passion and he now visits other CHS homes to prepare special dinner dishes. He is fulfilling his dream of cooking for others and showcasing his talents at the same time.
In addition to food distribution, the program helps the individuals served connect with their community by building relationships with employees at these local companies. The experience of volunteerism and knowing that they are giving back to others has a positive impact on participants.
Each Monday and Wednesday, staff and individual volunteers arrive at Whole Foods market with a truck to pick up fresh produce and dairy products, breads, frozen meats, condiments and a wide assortment of natural and healthy foods. Some of the volunteers choose to participate so that they can acquire job skills such as organizing, following directions, and customer service that they can build upon when seeking future employment opportunities.
The food is transported to the company’s Dartmouth center in Malden where it is sorted and prepared for distribution. Individuals living in their own homes in the community and supported through CHS’s Individual Support Services are primary recipients of the pantry’s free food. One Individual Support Services manager visits the pantry and fills his car with food and delivers it to the people he supports who are often times in between jobs, unable to cook for themselves or at times, homeless. Pre-made sandwiches, salads, and other items are a tremendous help both financially and nutritionally to those he supports.
Next, deliveries are made to the nearly forty CHS residential program homes throughout Greater Boston. The goal is to have all of the food distributed and consumed, but if there is ever a surplus, the company donates the food to other local organizations who are also feeding those in need locally. During the summer months, harvested vegetables from the company’s organic farm in North Reading and the urban garden plot in Malden are also included in the food pantry program. With each new experience, the individuals practice social and communication skills, learn new ways to connect with, and give back to others and continue to connect with their communities in meaningful ways.
We are very grateful to be a part of this network of companies that have come together to help bring nutritious and wholesome foods to those who need it most. To our partners at Food Donation Connection, Whole Foods Market, and Seasons 52 Restaurant, to our hardworking staff, and to our wonderful individual volunteers –thank you for all you do to improve the quality of life for so many.
If you are interested in learning more about the Food Donation Connection visit http://www.foodtodonate.com/Default.aspx.