The National Guard has been described as “Herculean” in their helping the City feed more than 18,000 residents every week, but their service to the City is coming to an end, with City Manager Tom Ambrosino reporting their last day will be May 22.
The National Guard was dispatched to Chelsea as hunger began to become as much of an epidemic as the COVID-19 virus had become a pandemic. Troops from the Guard helped to distribute food to the daily lines of hungry residents that gather to get boxes of food. They’ve also helped to deliver supplies and food to those in quarantine – not to mention using their trucks to deliver food from the Greater Boston Food Bank to the PORT Park.
“By May 25 the National Guard will be out and the City will be consolidating all food packaging and distribution at the PORT Park (150 Marginal St.),” said Ambrosino. “We’ll be doing food distributions at that site only starting May 25 and probably only three times a week. We’ll continue our home deliveries as well, but we are scaling down. The National Guard will have their last day here on May 22.”
This week and next week the current pop-up pantry locations will continue as they have, but the following week, starting on May 25, operations will begin to ratchet down with three pantries a week, all at PORT Park.
“We’ll consolidate there and have pantries three times a week, and we’ll do that into the first few weeks of June and then re-assess,” he said.
While the situation on the ground is still dire with hundreds coming out every day looking for food and waiting hours in line for just one box of food, Ambrosino said they hope that will change in the coming month.
“We’re hoping as the economy starts to re-open up, we’ll have more opportunity for employment and the need will start to diminish,” he said. “Nothing has changed in the economy yet and nothing has changed in the food insecurity situation.”
Ambrosino said the goal was to get to 1,500 boxes per day, but they would probably end up reaching the 1,300 mark before ratcheting down later this month.
“We seem to be at the 400 box per day mark with the National Guard,” he said. “We’d like to ramp up deliveries to 500 a day. I think we’ll get there by this week.”
Once people begin going back to work, he said he doesn’t think the need for food in Chelsea will be as great as it is now.
“We will slowly ratchet down the public distribution of food and maintain home deliveries as much as we can to accommodate COVID-19 patients,” he said. “At some point I have to start returning Planning Department employees to the Planning Department and DPW to the regular DPW work. We have to eventually get back to filling potholes and fixing signs again.”