Serving up Hot Meals and Hope in the Boston Area
Many vendors at the Link Net support their local food system by selling their handmade goods or fresh produce… But community services that connect people to the wealth of locally grown and produced foods? Those are also an immeasurably important part of the local food network.
Community Servings, a not-for-profit food and nutrition program, brings hot, fresh, nutritionally-tailored meals to thousands of people across Massachusetts. All of Community Servings’s clients are suffering from critical or chronic illness and unable to shop for or cook healthy meals for themselves.
Founded in 1989 by a coalition of AIDS activists, faith groups, and community organizations, Community Servings started out as a neighborhood operation serving 30 hot meals a day to patients suffering from HIV/AIDS. Today, the kitchen at Community Servings produces over 2,400 hot meals for delivery from its facilities in Jamaica Plain every day. They home-deliver meals in 18 cities in the Boston area.
According to Community Servings’s Leigh Kalbaker, “There are a lot of moving parts at Community Servings.” Their Nutrition Department speaks at events and partners with other organizations to spread the word about healthy eating, from diabetes prevention and management to healthy family eating. And their Kitchen Training program accepts those with barriers to employment to a 12-week program that gives students the skills to move into food service jobs or culinary schools. On any given day, students “may be busy learning how to chiffonade basil in the kitchen or learning principles of food safety in the classroom,” says Kalbaker. In the office, staff prepare for agency events and advocate for their clients on a policy level. All around, they stay pretty busy.
Community Servings finds solutions on a local level. “We work with farms to put their surplus crops to good use, we purchase local items through regional food aggregators, fishermen, and small batch producers, and we welcome donations from food rescue organizations to reduce food waste across the city,” says Kalbaker. The organization also partners with local farms to teach community classes and make Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs) available to their clients. They are a pickup site for Jamaica Plain’s Community Supported Fishery (CFA), and they stay hyper-local with an herb garden that helps flavor their meals while keeping sodium low.
This year at the Link Net, Community Servings will be spreading the word about their medically tailored, home-delivered meals program, as well as their Nutrition Education classes, Teaching Kitchen program, and information about how to volunteer and get involved. They’ll give visitors a chance to practice arranging healthy dinner plates and pick up tips from the Nutrition Department.
Community Servings depends on the work of over 850 volunteers per month to keep the operation running, both in the kitchen on a daily basis and at fundraising events. To get involved, contact: Malissa Harmon at 617-522-7777, x227, or by email at [email protected].
This post was brought to you by Randle Browning of CrandleCakes. Go check her out!