In an age where the cost of transportation is steadily rising, the MetroWest Regional Transit Authority is giving customers a break next week. But only if they're willing to pay it forward.
For two days, November 12 and 13, MWRTA riders can ride the bus for free with the donation of a can or box of non-perishable food.
The MWRTA has reached out to the United Way of Tri-County to launch its Food for Fare campaign, which will benefit one of the United Way's food pantries, the Pearl St. Cupboard & Cafe in Framingham.
According to the United Way of Tri-County, which serves the town of Norfolk and Worcester and Middlesex counties, the area is experiencing the largest food shortage they have seen in 40 years, and in Framingham alone, those in need of food have increased by 400 percent this year.
"The MWRTA reached out to us," said Jennifer Maseda, senior vice president of the United Way of Tri-County. She said the MWRTA sees the food pantry's needs first hand, as there is a bus stop at the Cafe so people can pick up their week's worth of food and then be dropped off close to home.
Maseda said that neither group has done something like this before, and the MWRTA, which operates in 12 communities, including Hopkinton, Natick, and Wellesley, chose the dates based on volume of ridership.
Riders can bring their donation, equivalent to at least $1, with them on the bus anytime during the MWRTA's operational hours on Monday and Tuesday and their ride is free. The buses will have collection boxes on board.
Maseda said the items most needed at the food pantry are jelly, canned meats, and canned vegetables. The donations will help feed Framingham's unemployed and under-employed, senior citizens, and anyone who relies on the Pearl St. Cupboard & Cafe for their weekly meals, she said.
MWRTA administrator Ed Carr issued this statement about the drive: "We are thrilled to be a part of Food for Fare and working with the United Way to accomplish much needed service to the community. The Authority is sure that its customers will be generous during these very difficult times as we collaborate to help our fellow citizens. Thanks for the opportunity to give back."
Laura Franzini can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.