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Weather Weighs On Eastern Mass. Food Pantries02:54

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Greater Boston Food Bank President Catherine D’Amato in the warehouse in a 2013 file photo (Joe Spurr/WBUR)closemore
Greater Boston Food Bank President Catherine D’Amato in the warehouse in a 2013 file photo (Joe Spurr/WBUR)

The Greater Boston Food Bank supplies more than 500 agencies in eastern Massachusetts. This winter's snow has forced the bank to close on the worst days, making food pantries, community centers and homeless shelters wait days for supplies.

At the Boston Medical Center food pantry, patients can pick up boxes stocked with vegetables, meats and dry goods two times a month. Melba German, of Brockton, says it supplements her family's nutrition in a major way.

"It helps so much. If it weren't for this, we'd eat just beans, lentils, rice and eggs, which is to say, whatever's cheapest," German said.

"It helps so much. If it weren't for this, we'd eat just beans, lentils, rice and eggs, which is to say, whatever's cheapest."

Melba German, Brockton resident

But German says she wasn't able to make it to her last pickup because of problems with the MBTA.

"I came now because I couldn't get here earlier," she said. "One can't travel on the streets, there were no buses, no trains, nothing."

The Greater Boston Food Bank, which supplies Boston Medical Center's pantry, moved nearly 50 million pounds of food last year. This winter's snow has forced the bank to close four times.

"Clearly, the food distribution to these cities, towns and agencies has been deeply hampered by the volume of snow. What we're seeing is delayed deliveries or deliveries being rescheduled two, three, four days later," said Catherine D'Amato, CEO of the food bank.

D'Amato says the food bank's staff have been working weekends and late nights, but still, the delays have forced pantries and other service agencies to reach into their reserves and hand out nonperishable items like canned goods.

Troy Fernandes, who supervises the food pantry at Boston Medical Center, says many patients haven't been able to get in because of the weather. And with repeated delays in his scheduled pickups, there's been times when supplies have run thin.

"With the patients coming in it was slim to none," Fernandes said. "The food bank [is] canceling orders because their workers couldn't get to work because of the MBTA, and then that means we weren't able to pick up food, so we were short on food for the patients that did come."

"That means we weren't able to pick up food, so we were short on food for the patients that did come."

Troy Fernandes, supervisor, Boston Medical Center food pantry

Getting a ride from her daughter, Melba German left the hospital with a box of meat and vegetables that must've weighed 40 pounds.

"They give me rice, cooking oil, vegetables, chicken, milk, peanut butter," she said. "The food is very good."

From there, the ingredients will make it to German's dinner table.

Simón Rios Reporter
Simón Rios is a reporter in WBUR's newsroom. He joined the station after two years at The Standard-Times in New Bedford, where he cut his teeth covering immigration and business.

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