As cliché as it sounds, it is hard to imagine life beyond or before Covid-19. As the world begins to tip-toe back to normal, many find it hard to imagine what this new “normal” will even look like. Some, myself included, find it difficult to even begin to picture what a post-pandemic world will be, as social distancing and isolation have completely taken over in the past year.
Although the pandemic that has forced us apart from one another in so many ways, in other ways it has brought our community closer than ever before. Take BC Law’s Food Pantry Effort, for example, a working group that has helped organize the donations of hundreds of pounds of food to local organizations.
We spoke with student leader Andrew Fishman about the work of the group and how he hopes to impact the surrounding community.
Tell me a little bit about how this working group got its start.
Since the start of the pandemic, we have been bombarded with images of food lines, miles long and hearing stories of people not sure how they will be able to feed their families. I read an article from a local ABC affiliate about food insecurity rising everywhere in Massachusetts. I was heartbroken to see so many in our community struggling. In early February, I reached out to Dean Hayes about trying to start a food drive for local shelters. She was very excited about the idea and roped in Sharon Blumenstock and Andrew Zeppa. We have been meeting weekly since mid-February, partnering each week with different community organizations to raise awareness of their work and donations.
Why did you think that creating this group would be beneficial to surrounding communities?
The more we read, the more shocked we became about the level of need in the surrounding communities. In normal times, these organizations struggle to get by, but since COVID, volunteering has burdensome restrictions, receiving donations has become harder, and resources have been further stretched. I thought if we could raise awareness of the struggles in the surrounding community, we could hopefully encourage members of the BC Law family to provide support. With a small amount of money these organizations have large impacts, from providing kids with a safe space to learn after school to feeding a family for weeks.
What are the main goals of the working group?
The main goal of the working group is to drive attention to those struggling in the surrounding community. We hope this leads to contributions, both financial and material donations, as well as encouraging people to volunteer if they can. We want to enable BC Law to have a significant impact on the greater community. In this time where everything in uncertain, we knew that the BC community would step up to the plate to help those around us.
How do you select the organizations that you have partnered with? What considerations go into this selection?
We have partnered with a wide variety of local organizations and these partnerships have come from a number of sources. We have been referred to organizations by individual students, student organizations, faculty recommendations, and diligent online research. The main considerations have been the organization’s proven ability to help those in need. We have tried to partner with a wide variety of organizations so our impact can be spread between a diverse group of recipients.
If anyone reading this has worked with a local organization that would like us to support, they can tell us about it by filling out this form.
Tell me about the success of this group. What have you all accomplished since the beginning?
We are proud of the impact this effort has had and we are looking forward to continuing to support the community organizations around eastern Massachusetts. We raised over $3,000 dollars from student organizations, as well as over 900 pounds of food for drive with the Greater Boston Food Bank. The campaign can be found here. We are hoping to break 1000 pounds donated from BC Law!
In addition to these donations, we have encouraged members of the BC Law community to donate privately. Each week, after we have promoted an organization and we check in with the organization to see what impact the fundraising effort has had. Each organization has reported increases in donations that week and volunteers.
What has been (and where have you seen) the biggest impact of your work?
Each organization that we have chosen to support has had to do more with less since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Garrison Trotter Neighborhood Association has distributed fans to communities without air conditioning, the Newton Food Pantry has had to double their operating expenses, and the Somerville Homeless Coalition has seen need multiply. I think the biggest impact of our work is helping these organizations, who have done so much for our community.
How has this working group changed your own perspectives of the greater Boston community?
The presentations by the organizations show how much need is out there. One organization told us that before the pandemic, there was already a high level of need in the local communities, but since the COVID-19 pandemic, need has skyrocketed. They expect it will take ten years before the need will restore to pre-COVID levels.
What do you envision for the growth of this working group?
I hope BC law makes the food drive an annual tradition for the spring semester. We have been so focused on helping the community now that we have not talked about the future.
What is your greatest hope in the work you have done?
We are excited to have these organizations become known inside of the BC Law community and hopefully, individual members can develop ongoing relationships with some of these organizations.
How can others get involved?
I am glad you asked! Below are the links to donate to our ongoing drive or one of our partner groups:
We are now raising funds for the Greater Boston Food Bank (GBFB) as it distributes food to over 500 partner agencies in the greater Boston area. Please consider donating to our BC Law Virtual Food Drive (part of #GIVEHEALTHY) to help feed local communities.
Let’s come together to help in our backyard with the Newton Food Pantry. Everyone can easily contribute by donating through the pantry’s Amazon Wishlist or by making a donation. Learn more by watching their “Day in the Life” video.
The Haley House, named for Boston College graduate and civil rights activist Leo Haley, supports those in the South End and Roxbury neighborhoods of Boston. Haley House is a comprehensive resource for homeless and low-income families with an express mission of using “food with purpose and the power of community to break down barriers between people, empower individuals, and strengthen neighborhoods.” To learn more about their history and mission, check out their recent TV spot. In addition to picking out specific items of need from their Amazon Charity List, Haley House also accepts monetary donations and offers opportunities to volunteer in various capacities.
The Greater Somerville Homeless Coalition’s Project SOUP is another great option. Founded over fifty years ago, Project SOUP is a food pantry and soup kitchen serving the Somerville community. Through their pantry, community meals, and home delivery program, Project SOUP is able to provide healthy meals and groceries to neighbors in need. Due to the pandemic, food insecurity is at an all-time high. Help them support the increased need by donating online or dropping off food/essentials in person at 165 Broadway in Somerville during their open hours posted on their website. Hat tip to SHC’s Executive Director, Mike Libby (yes, husband of BC Law Assistant Dean Emily Libby!) for updating the SHC Amazon Wish List for us. As Mike says, the Street Outreach Program that this list benefits always lacks resources and funding, so anything we can do is very much appreciated!
Devon Sanders is a second-year student, and vice president of the Impact blog. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.