Coalition Food Drive provides help to struggling families in Somerville … and beyond

On December 12, more than 50 volunteers assisted with a community food drive spearheaded by members of the Somerville Stands Together coalition.

Somerville’s George Dilboy VFW generously opened up its new hall in Davis Square to give volunteers a place to gather, sort, and bag food contributions from 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM. Plentiful food donations came from far and wide. Individuals brought by a bag or two of groceries. Participating unions filled vans with food. Local markets like Somerville’s Neighborhood Produce donated a huge truck filled with fresh food to support the drive. Chelsea’s La Colaborativa did the same.

By noontime on Saturday, organizers estimated that the drive had gathered literally thousands of pounds of food, sorted into roughly 350 bags and 90 boxes of groceries and produce. Most of the bags also included hand sanitizer and masks, as well as many other household necessities. Pictures of volunteers working on the drive are posted here.

“The response from local unions and our community was more than generous,” said Marianne Walles, an SEIU Local 509 leader and long-time Somerville resident who spearheaded the effort. “The amount of food donated exceeded our expectations and we were really pleased to help so many families in need.” Local 509 also supported the drive with communications assistance and many volunteers.

A number of Somerville’s elected officials also attended, including State Representatives Denise Provost and Christine Barber, City Councilors Jesse Clingan and Matt McLaughlin, and State Representative-elect Erika Uyterhoeven. As is often the case, Councilor Clingan (a union member himself), arrived early to unload groceries and stayed to the end of the day to help with the clean-up.

After 1:00 PM, people who needed food began picking it up at the Dilboy. By 3:00 PM there was still a large supply, so volunteers shifted gears and began making sure that the remaining groceries were distributed to area food pantries and homeless shelters in Boston, Cambridge, Lynn, and Worcester.

Market Basket, Stop & Shop, and Star Market all donated gift cards. Trader Joe’s and Wegman’s (Medford) also contributed a large number of canned goods. Painters District Council 35 brought large tents — which were essential because of inclement weather.

In addition to SEIU Local 509 and Painters District Council 35, unions and community groups that sent member volunteers included: the Boston Building Trades Council, the Greater Boston Labor Council, Our Revolution Somerville, SEIU Local 32BJ, SEIU Local 888, Somerville Municipal Employees Assoc., The Somerville Workers Center, Somerville Climate Coalition, Teamsters Local 122, 350 Mass, and UFCW Local 1445.

Most of these groups as well as many individuals also contributed financial support. The City of Somerville assisted with outreach to area markets for the gift cards and transportation and cleanup support from the DPW.

“As we continue to navigate the impacts of COVID-19 on our communities, we have to support each other,” said Walles. “Saturday’s food drive showed the power we have when we come together. Solidarity and mutual aid are what will get us through these difficult times.”

Somerville Stands Together is a community-labor coalition with over 20 member organizations. For more info visit: https://somervillestandstogether.com

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