Gleaming new buildings are springing up like mushrooms all over South Boston, along with upscale restaurants and trendy boutiques. In this atmosphere of plenty it’s hard to imagine that there are more than a few people in the neighborhood who are hurting and hungry. But hurting and hungry they are.
Ten years ago, Dr. Nisha Thakrar, pediatrician and Chief Medical Officer at South Boston Community Health Center approached the CEO, Bill Halpin, with a concern. She had patients who weren’t making it to the end of the month with their food supply. She had several moms who had to make the choice to forgo a meal so their children could eat.
Halpin and Susan LaPaglia, the Director of Administrative Services spearheaded a food drive. The health center staff responded generously by filling an entire room with canned goods and pasta, beans and soup, surely enough to last for months they thought. Within two weeks it was gone.
Such was the beginning of the South Boston Community Health Center’s Food Pantry for their patients. In the past two years, the pantry distributed over 86,000 pounds of food to nearly 1600 individuals including adults, seniors and children. The pantry is open two days a week for a total of 8 hours. There are no lines and families are treated with dignity, respect and discretion. Lapaglia has since taken on the additional role of Pantry Director. She and health center staff take the trip to the Greater Boston Food Bank once a week to load up food and when there is a greater need, the health center supplements the food with purchases from local supermarkets and other venues. Partners HealthCare, Project Bread and Boston Medical Center have helped with funding as have other private sources, including Foodies Market who donates the Thanksgiving turkeys every year and Massport, who conducts a Thanksgiving food drive with their employees.
On the pantry’s 10th anniversary, plans are underway to move it to a new, ground level space at the health center and expand the hours of operation so even more hungry patients can be fed. In honor of this milestone, Arthur Murphy of Murphy, Hesse, Toomey and Lehane, (a world class good guy and dedicated supporter of the health center) donated $5000 to help to defray the cost of running the food pantry. But more than that, Arthur wanted his donation to come as a challenge to other individuals and businesses to get involved and heed the call to feed the hungry. Neil Fitzpatrick of Boston Freight Terminals (another world class good guy and longtime supporter) heard about Arthur’s challenge and matched his $5000 donation to the food pantry.
If you’re reading this and have the ability to make a difference – big or small – consider yourself challenged to help! We can’t all make a $5000 donation, but we can all make a difference.
Donations can be made online at www.sbchc.org/givin or a check can be mailed to the health center at: SBCHC, 409 West Broadway, South Boston, MA 02127 (please mark “ food pantry” in the memo).