BEACON HILL COURANT
January 24, 2014
West End Pantry Is Looking at Changes
by Eddie Small, Courant News Writer
The recent $1.1 trillion spending bill passed by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama has reversed some of the nation’s sequestration budget cuts, spurring optimism at Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD), the city’s antipoverty agency.
The ABCD, which runs the West End Food Pantry and offers services such as fuel assistance and the early childhood education program Head Start, had to cut back on about 100 staff members due to the sequester, according to President and CEO John Drew. Although he did not know for sure how much restored funding and programming ABCD would see from the new federal budget, he was hopeful that the group would get something.
“I don’t want it to get lost down in Washington,” he said. “I want it to come back to where they took it.”
Lia Tota, director of the North End/West End Neighborhood Service Center, said possible adjustments are underway at the West End Food Pantry as well, which is attempting to change its hours of operation to get a permit from the Greater Boston Food Bank.
The pantry, located in the Boston Public Library’s (BPL) West End branch at 151 Cambridge Street, does not have a permit because the food bank says there are already too many food pantries open in the area. This means it cannot get supplies from the food bank and instead relies on shopping at different supermarkets, generally a more expensive option.
“We could, of course, save a lot of money if we went shopping at the food bank, and we would be able to replenish the food more easily and more readily,” Tota said. “So it would be good for the community.”
About 120 people come to the food pantry each month, according to Tota. In June, Helen Bender of BPL’s West End Branch wrote in an email that donations for the pantry were “desperately needed.”
The Greater Boston Food Bank did not respond to requests for comment.
In order to get a permit from the food bank, the West End Food Pantry will have to change its hours to include either a weekend or an evening to differentiate itself from other neighboring pantries. Its current hours are Mondays and Wednesdays from 11 am until 1:30 pm, but it is looking into switching one of those days and times to Thursday nights or Saturday in the late morning or early afternoon, which could help benefit the working poor. Such changes would have to be cleared with the library.
Tota did not know what the timeline for this process would look like. “We’re just in the process of applying, and we’ll see,” she said.