By Seth Daniel
The scourge of hunger is growing in Chelsea, and with fear in the community due to federal immigration changes, many are not seeking help, and organizers of the 6th Annual Empty Bowls plan to stress that at their signature fundraising event on Thursday, April 20.
The annual event, which is from 5-7 p.m. at 180 Walnut St. in the Williams School, raises money to help provide food at the St. Luke’s Food Pantry, the St. Luke’s Soup Kitchen, the Salvation Army Food Pantry and the MGH Food Pantry. It is part of the Chelsea Hunger Network.
Ron Fishman of the Hunger Network said the situation around hunger in Chelsea is really at an alarming point.
“The situation has been growing and the need for food keeps on going up and it may continue to go up as programs are potentially cut as time goes on,” he said. “Because the community in Chelsea is pretty much stepping back from signing up for benefits from the government for fear of being exposed – and if undocumented – being taken away, the situation is getting worse. We feel people who qualify for WIC and food stamps aren’t getting the help because of fear. Therefore, the situation just gets worse. There is a real need in the City, and the situation just keeps on getting more difficult.”
The event costs $20 in advance and $25 at the door and children under 8 are free. Those participating will get a hand-painted bowl with hot soup and fresh bread. There will also be ice cream for the bowls this year donated by Mimi Rancatore of Toscanini’s in Cambridge. As another change, Fishman said they have added hand-painted mugs as he thinks there might be some “bowl fatigue” out there after six years of having the event.
A bigger part of the event will be educating those in attendance about the huge numbers of people who are food insecure, who do not have enough food to last the entire month.
“Healthy Chelsea did a survey a few years ago and found that more than 50 percent of people who responded said that at the end of the month they would run out of food,” he said. “That’s a mammoth number and it’s only worse now. That was a few years ago. It’s a situation that doesn’t get recognized as being so prevalent for people who don’t have that issue.”
Some statistics from 2016 showed that St. Luke’s Food Pantry gave out 280,667 pounds of food to 11,339 people. The Greater Boston Food Bank reported one in eight Chelsea residents may be struggling with food insecurity and one in four lives in poverty. The cost of food in Suffolk County is 28 percent higher than the national average.
To gear up for the event, 16 community ‘glazing parties’ were held between January and March to create the bowls and mugs. As a community service, Salem State University donated its time to fire the pieces in their kilns.
Those who volunteered to create the bowls included:
- Chelsea Soldiers’ Home
- Chelsea Square Apartments
- Citizens Schools
- Collaborative/Bantu Girls
- Foley Residences
- Gallery at Spencer Lofts
- One North of Boston
- Rotary Club of Chelsea
- The Salvation Army of Chelsea
- St. Luke’s Church
- St. Paul Church
- The Neighborhood Developers
- Trinity Management
- Zonta Club of Chelsea