After hearing concerns from City Councillors, City Manager Tom Ambrosino said he will reverse his decision to ratchet down and consolidate food distribution efforts starting next week.
Instead, there will be pop-up food pantries in their normal locations continuing through June while the Council decides what it wants to do about food distribution efforts in the long-term.
Ambrosino had announced that with the exit of the National Guard on May 22, he would begin to offer pantries three times a week at the PORT Park only. But pushback at the Council changed that.
“Last week we decided to consolidate at the PORT Park and make the money appropriated last through August,” he said. “That was believed to be inconvenient. What we decided to do is continue like we are doing this week through the month of June. That will give the Council time to decide the best transition plan while we maintain the five we have set up in the past and this week.”
At Monday’s Council meeting, Councillor Damali Vidot called on the administration to act in a more humane and convenient way.
“I am urging the City administration to reconsider the current proposal and allow a more humane plan to create a smoother transition to help our residents adjust,” she wrote. “To add to the frenzy of our resident’s lives, the decision to drastically cut back the food assistance program will jeopardize the small amount of security our resident have relied on over the past two months. In addition, it is not feasible for most of our residents to pick up their food at PORT Park and carry it back to their home that might be on the other side of the city.”
That has caused the revamped plan, which will require a $75,000 expenditure to hire a transportation company to replace the services done by the National Guard, including making trips to the Greater Boston Food Bank to pick up large quantities of provisions and bring them to the PORT Park.
“We can do that through June and transition to PORT Park and get us through August,” he said. “We should break even doing that with the money currently appropriated by Council.”
He said the pop-up pantries five days a week cost the City $125,000 per week, while a consolidated effort at PORT Park of three days a week costs $58,000 per week.
He said the City Council will have to decide if it wants to spend more money to continue operations five days a week through July, August and beyond.
“A lot will be decided by the City Council once they have their subcommittee meeting – how long they want to continue the food and how much money they want to appropriate,” he said. “If the Council wants to continue with the five-day pantries through the summer and beyond, it will take additional money. For now, we’ll continue with the five-day pop-ups through June instead of scaling down next week.”
Pop-up Pantry Locations are on the following schedule through the end of June:
Quigley Park, 25 Essex Street
Ruiz Park, 141 Washington Avenue
Luther Place, Cherry Street, between 5th Street and 4th Street
Bellingham Hill Park, 115 Bellingham Street
Washington Park, at Washington Ave and Hancock Street
Bosson Park, 43-56 Bellingham Street
Chelsea Square, near 2 Second Street
Highland Park, in front of 30 Willow Street
City Hall Parking lot, 500 Broadway
Mary C. Burke Complex, 300 Crescent Avenue