Family Meals Bring Nutrition and Convenience

A man stands next to a table of produce with a sign that says "Food For Free."
Rows of meals
Rows of meals, waiting to be sealed

When the Family Meals program is in the kitchen at Christ Church Cambridge, every inch of the countertop is covered with trays of food queued up to be sealed. A whole corner of the kitchen is dedicated to sorting bags of donated frozen food, and at the center island, volunteers hammer it all into smaller pieces, three bins at a time. In this kitchen, Family Meals has grown from a food rescue experiment with just a couple food donors to an efficiently coordinated meal-making machine. In the last year Family Meals packaged and distributed over 22,000 microwaveable meals. By rescuing bulk leftover food from college dining halls and corporate cafeterias, we help our partner agencies serve people meals that are nutritious, individually portioned, and already cooked.

Family Meals volunteers
Intern Stuart with volunteers from Dicerna

This summer the Family Meals Program plans to move to a new home as Christ Church renovates its kitchen. We are so grateful for the space Christ Church has allowed us to use, and we look forward to a new partnership, pending final approval. Our hope for the program is that it will grow even more as we consider adding extra days working in the kitchen, as well as a second chest freezer for storage.

We will continue to deliver meals to agencies like the YMCA that serve families in transitional housing, and we’ll be reaching out to new agencies as the volume of rescued food picks back up in the fall. In particular, Food For Free seeks to partner with schools and colleges to help meet the needs of students and their families. Bunker Hill Community College received over 2,000 meals in the last year, and we just began delivering to Mass Bay Community College this spring. Over half of the students at each of these schools have low or very low food security.

A sign at MassBay Community College: Free Frozen Meal Pickup
A sign at MassBay Community College letting students know where to pick up meals

Since the meals we package can be ready to eat in minutes, they can be especially useful for students with busy work and class schedules, or those who don’t have a full kitchen available. Schools and colleges are especially promising in our mission to expand food access, because they provide an established network for delivery, an important community of support, and a place to meet people where they are.

Thanks to our volunteers, Family Meals are more than just convenient; they are consciously packed to be both appetizing and nutritionally balanced. Bailey, our Family Meals coordinator, is a pro at teaching and supervising the program’s model. This includes picking out what foods to combine, and labeling the food as specifically and accurately as possible, so that individuals receiving meals have more agency in what they eat. We welcome both new and returning volunteers!