By Seth Daniel
Coming from a place of desperation has been a great piece of hope in the community known as the Chelsea Hunger Network, a group that has been guided tirelessly by Ron Fishman.
Fishman works for MGH part-time in the community coalition, and works part-time also at Trinity Property Management managing Chelsea Square Apartments on Broadway. In managing both duties, about 10 years ago Fishman got involved in the Hunger Network, which had probably started five years before at the behest of Project Bread.
Since that time, the Hunger Network has grown to include an annual Empty Bowls fundraising event, and support of the St. Luke’s Food Panty, the MGH Food Pantry, the Salvation Army Food Pantry and the St. Luke’s Soup Kitchen.
“My involvement as the coordinator of the Chelsea Hunger Network is because of Trinity,” said Fishman, who lives in Lynn. “Trinity is a property management company that manages primarily subsidized or low-income buildings. The company is concerned about the quality of life of residents and it’s important to enhance their lives. Trinity gave me the leeway to do this, which is part of their mission. I feel I’m very lucky to do that and have an organization to support it. Otherwise, I don’t know if I could do it and I don’t know where the Hunger Network would be.”
The more pertinent question, though, is where the needy would be without the energized support of Fishman and several other organizations and volunteers.
“Without having numbers in front of me, I could say every year the numbers of people coming through and the poundage given out is about 20 percent more year over year. That’s a conservative number. It’s unbelievable the food insecurity problem here.”
The Hunger Network really ratcheted up in 2008 when the economy tanked and following that when things remained tough. Many families were obviously struggling to find food and so many needed help.
In the wake of that, some five years ago, the Network decided it needed to have a fundraising effort to support the food pantries and soup kitchens that were being inundated.
This year, just a few weeks ago, the 5th Annual Empty Bowls celebration took place at Chelsea High School. Fishman said it was a great success, but the other part of the fundraiser, the bowl painting events scattered throughout January, February and March, has grown even more popular.
“This year we had as many people there at Empty Bowls as we did the year before,” he said. “Everyone said it was a great success and it is a wonderful event. Yet, we don’t attract more and more people. You need to find a way to get those people who painted bowls to come to the event because they invested so much time in the painting. First, we need to increase participation in the event overall. Second, we need to find out how to get people who painted bowls to come to the event.”
The bowl painting has really taken off, he said, and is an important artistic component to the Network. Those organizations that painted bowls were the Department or Children and Families (DCF), Bantu Group, Zonta Club, MGH, Chelsea High, Chelsea City Council, Chelsea Collaborative, TND and several church groups.
“So many people have painted bowls in the city and it’s really become a community-wide art project that brings everyone together and brings awareness to food insecurity,” he said. “We had to turn people away this year because we had too many bowls.”
With a mind toward growing the Network to help put more of a dent in the problem, Fishman said he will rely on the steady volunteers and coalition organizations that have been beside him the whole time.
“The buy-in from everyone is great,” he said. “The community uniting to get involved is a great thing. Hopefully, in the end they have done something for hunger and it benefits someone locally in need. The whole thing has built up and it’s been amazing to see that happen.”