Food News

A guide to Boston food pantries, food drives, and community fridges

"Slowly we have been converted into a survival center, so you get a little bit of everything and we try to do the best that we can."

Patricia Ebanks works with staff and volunteers filling food boxes at La Colaborativa in Chelsea, MA on March 18, 2021. Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff

Tanairi Garcia, director of La Colaborativa‘s food pantry, doesn’t just consider the community resource a food provider. She considers it a survival center.

La Colaborativa, which offers housing security, economic advancement, and other resources to Latinx immigrants in the Greater Boston area, didn’t have a food pantry prior to the pandemic. But Garcia said the organization saw an immediate need for one when the pandemic hit Chelsea, a city that was once considered an epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak.

After it launched in March 2020, the pantry spent months serving 11,000 families on a weekly basis. While that number has slowly come down — it now serves roughly 3,500 to 5,000 families each week, and makes home deliveries to those who can’t leave their house — Garcia said the community’s needs have grown.

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“The demand is still there for food, but now we have more demand on rental assistance,” she said, noting that they have seen a rise in evictions. “Our huge focus is food sustainability, but because of all the evictions that have been going on, we have been trying to provide shelter for these families. Slowly we have been converted into a survival center, so you get a little bit of everything and we try to do the best that we can.”

La Colaborativa isn’t alone in facing an increase in community need while adapting to pandemic-related changes. Project Bread, which provides food assistance to Massachusetts families, saw a 29 percent increase over the past two years in pre-screened callers looking for SNAP benefits. The Greater Boston Food Bank is anticipating that supply chain issues will affect their Thanksgiving meals, and making sure they have enough chicken in case the turkey supply runs out, according to WCVB.

In order to help keep operations running, pantries and food banks across the state need the public’s help through monetary and food donations. At La Colaborativa’s food pantry, food donations can be dropped off Monday through Friday at 25 Sixth St. in Chelsea — though next year, that location may change. Garcia said the pantry is in the process of purchasing a new building, one that will include a commercial kitchen to educate residents about healthy food options.

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“I think that if they can taste something and see the recipe and see the process, we can get closer to creating healthier habits,” she said.

Want to help organizations like La Colaborativa feed their community? We put together a list of food drives, food pantries, and community fridges in the Greater Boston area.

Food and holiday drives

Food drives tend to ramp up during the holidays, with many donations going towards local pantries and the Greater Boston Food Bank. We’ll be updating this running list of food drives as more are announced throughout the season.

Boston Public Library Spice Bank Collective
Hoping to clean out your spice cabinet? BPL recently announced a partnership with the Greater Boston Food Bank to launch the BPL Spice Bank Collective through 2022. Round up your unopened spices and dried herbs and bring them to participating branch locations, where they’ll be donated to local food pantries. Spices dropped off at Central Library’s Newsfeed Café in Copley Square will be matched by the Café. (various locations)

Harpoon Brewery
Throughout November, Harpoon’s Boston brewery in the Seaport is collecting food donations through YouGiveGoods, asking for staples that range from canned green beans and peanut butter to granola bars and coffee. Items will be delivered to the Greater Boston Food Bank at the end of the month.

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Hunger Free Holidays at the Greater Boston Food Bank
The Greater Boston Food Bank’s annual holiday drive in partnership with Stop & Shop asks individuals to donate $25 to provide a healthy holiday meal (turkey and traditional side dishes) for a family in need. The campaign runs until Dec. 31.

Roslindale Community Fridge turkey drive
On Nov. 23, the Roslindale Community Fridge will host its second annual turkey drive, asking for donations to purchase both perishable and shelf stable items. Donations will go toward the purchase of fresh produce, whole turkeys, chicken thighs, tofu, butter, milk, cheese, and dessert items like marshmallows and cookie dough, as well as non-food items like lightly used and new coats, sweaters, boots, and more.

Food banks, pantries, and shelters

A selection of food donations. – Wendy Maeda/Globe Staff

These food banks and pantries, along with a number of local shelters, accept donations all year long. While monetary donations are encouraged, shelf-stable pantry items and other cooking necessities are also accepted at many locations — just be sure to check with each pantry to determine what they’re looking for and when donations can be dropped off.

American Red Cross Boston Food Pantry (1033 Massachusetts Ave., Boston)

Boston Food Not Bombs (5 Callender St., Cambridge)

Boston Rescue Mission (39 Kingston St., Boston)

Centre Street Food Pantry (11 Homer St, Newton Centre)

East End House (105 Spring St., Cambridge)

Food For Free (11 Inman St., Cambridge)

Greater Boston Food Bank (70 S Bay Ave, Boston)

Haley House Food Pantry (23 Dartmouth St., Boston)

International Institute of New England Food Pantry (2 Boylston St., Boston)

La Colaborativa (318 Broadway, Chelsea)

Pine Street Inn (444 Harrison Ave., Boston)

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Project Soup (165 Broadway, Somerville)

Rosie’s Place (889 Harrison Ave, Boston)

Community fridges

As the rate of food insecurity in Massachusetts continued to rise over the course of the pandemic, residents across the state took it upon themselves to set up community fridges in their neighborhood under the unifying ethos, “take what you need, give what you can.” Check out each community fridge below to see donation guidelines.

Allston/Brighton Community Fridges (243 Faneuil St., Brighton; 404 Washington St., Brighton)

Bridge Fridge (157 Windsor St., Cambridge)

Brookline Community Fridge (7 Station St., Brookline)

Charlestown Health Center Community Fridge (15 Tufts St., Boston)

Coast Community Fridge (5 Callendar St., Cambridge)

Earthy Boston – Fenway Fridge (506 Park Dr., Boston)

Fridge in the Square (45 Mt. Auburn St., Cambridge)

Jamaica Plain Community Fridge (672 Centre St., Boston)

Lynn Community Fridge (16 City Hall Square, Lynn)

Malden Community Fridges (155 Beach St., Malden; Faulkner St., Malden; 195 Canal St., Malden)

Mattapan Community Fridge (1290 Blue Hill Ave., Boston)

Newton Community Freedge (420 Watertown St., Newton)

Northeastern Mutual Aid Community Fridge (70 Saint Stephen St., Boston)

Roslindale Community Fridge (1 Firth Rd., Boston)

Somerville Community Fridges (35 Prospect St., Somerville; 36 Sewall St., Somerville)

South End Fridge (549 Columbus Ave., Boston)

Watertown Community Fridge (1084 Belmont St., Watertown)

Worcester Community Fridges (910 Main St., Worcester; 44 Portland St., Worcester; 16 Brooks St., Worcester; 42 South St. Worcester)

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