CREW Boston

HRI Tackles Food Insecurity in Cambridge

As Director of Development at the affordable housing provider Homeowner’s Rehab (HRI), Jane Carbone coordinates all aspects of housing development from the predevelopment phase through construction. 
HRI owns and operates over 1250 units, housing hundreds of low income families.  Too often, low-income neighborhoods lack access to farmers’ markets or stores selling a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. When such foods are available, they can be priced too high for families that need to stretch their grocery budgets. Oftentimes, they will fill the gap with less nutritious, bulk, packaged foods with a longer shelf life.
While doing occupied rehab projects, HRI realized that many tenants didn’t have food in their cabinets.  They began providing snacks and convenience foods in the common rooms during the renovations since the tenants were temporarily without kitchens. When the renovations were complete, and the food was no longer provided in the common rooms, many tenants reached out to HRI indicating that they couldn’t afford healthy food. HRI decided that rather than providing snacks – which had been selected for convenience over nutrition – they could provide healthy food for their residents. 
Through its Resident Service Program, HRI brings a no-cost farmers’ market straight to their residents’ doorsteps. The Market in the Park program is designed to work in conjunction with other efforts (Cooking w/Relish, Food Pantry Service, Community Gardening programs, Grocery Shuttle Services, elder food program) to combat food insecurity in their Cambridge communities.
Their community gardens have been operating for about 4 years and vary with success and interest based on the neighborhood. The Food pantry began 3 years ago and continues to grow. Other CREW Boston Housing & Community Development group members added to the conversation with their neighborhood efforts, successes, and struggles.
Defined by the USDA as lacking consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life, in 2016, an estimated 1 in 8 Americans -- 42 million Americans including 13 million children -- were food insecure.
This was Part 2 of the CREW Boston Series on Food Security and Sustainable Agriculture.


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  • Michelle Apigian
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