First Baptist Continues to Fight Hunger with $100,000 Grant

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The First Baptist Church recently received a $100,000 grant from Mass General Brigham to grow its sit down meals and food deliveries service.

When COVID hit, First Baptist could no longer provide meals inside its location, said Rev. Ashlee Wiest-Laird.

"We said, let's deliver to them. It was two meals a week, which quickly became three meals," said Wiest-Laird.

Soon they were providing three meals a week up to 300 households in Jamaica Plain, Roxbury, Roslindale, Dorchester, Hyde Park, and more.

With help from the Greater Boston Food Bank, the church started delivering groceries to households, too. While some households no longer asked to receive groceries, there was no shortage of those in need, and there is currently a waiting list of about 60 people.

"We've given away more than one million pounds of food since April 2020," said Wiest-Laird. 

More than 150 people volunteer for the church's food program to pick up food, deliver groceries, prep meals, and they hired additional chefs.

"The community has been amazing," she added.

Along with the Food Bank, the church was receiving excess produce from Red Fire Farm's CSA, which has distributed from the church's lawn for years, and from Stone Soup Farm. 

As the demand grew the church started using space in the building that a preschool normally uses, but was not in use due to COVID. Once the school came back, the church needed more than just its kitchen, so it started operating out of the First Church in Jamaica Plain. That was for a year while their sanctuary was not in use due to COVID. Once worshippers came back to use the sanctuary, First Baptist needed to find a permanent space for its community food program.

The church continues to provide hot meals, but is not providing groceries at present time, said Wiest-Laird. They will be using the grant to pay rent on its eventual commercial space, and to get back to providing groceries.

For community members wanting to help, Wiest-Laird added that monetary donations would be the best, as the community food program is primarily dependent upon grants. Volunteers are also wanted to deliver food, and cook in the kitchen. 

Visit the First Baptist Church's website to learn more.