Published On: December 17th, 2020

Neighbors lined up for food in Central Square last month. Photo by Lou Jones.

The Cambridge Community Foundation is continuing to support residents impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic by awarding a total of $40,000 in surprise, need-inspired grants to eleven neighborhood food pantries and programs. The gifts are the first in a series of grants planned by the Foundation to quickly distribute donated funds back into the community to help nonprofits address emergency issues including food insecurity, housing insecurity and shelter for the homeless, cash for urgent needs, access to connectivity, and emergency childcare.

The new grants, ranging in this round from $2,000 to $5,000, are administered from the Cambridge COVID-19 Emergency Fund. Over the past few weeks, donors across the city have given generously to the Foundation’s second campaign for the Cambridge COVID-19 Emergency Fund, which is focused on neighbors helping neighbors in an unprecedented winter.

“Cambridge is facing a startling reality—one in eight of our neighbors is hungry and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. This winter will be long and hard for many,” said Geeta Pradhan, president of the Cambridge Community Foundation. “We see the need every day, in the food lines near our Central Square office and throughout the city. Our nonprofits – large and small have their hands full trying to meet the overwhelming need. With support from hundreds of donors, we can get money to these organizations in quick and simple ways.”

Last month, The Boston Globe reported that Massachusetts has seen the country’s highest percent increase of residents facing food insecurity (up 59% since 2018). The Greater Boston Food Bank‘s data show that in Greater Boston and in Cambridge, 1 in 8 people are food insecure—that is more than 15,000 Cambridge residents who depend on food pantries and free food deliveries.

The recipients of the new need-inspired grants range from longstanding community anchors, like church pantries, to innovative solutions, like the Port neighborhood’s ‘The Bridge Fridge’ and the Coast Community Fridge, new community refrigerators where neighbors can take what they need and share what they can, as well as My Brother’s Keeper’s “A Moral Movement” campaign to distribute gift cards for groceries. For Cambridge families dealing with job loss, furloughs, or sick family members, these efforts are helping them get by day-to-day.

This week’s grant recipients are:

“For a lot of our clients, it’s been a sudden, car-accident-kind-of-loss, where one day you’re fine and the next day you can’t feed your children, your elders, or yourself,” said JT Minor, who directs the Helping Hand Food Pantry operated by St. James’s Episcopal Church. Their monthly clients have increased from 65 households in September to 100 this December. “We didn’t know this grant from the Foundation was coming but we’re grateful that it came at such a needed time around the holidays.”

“We have a large amount of clients that we serve each week in Cambridge and surrounding cities. The challenge is a little harder now during the COVID-19 pandemic. At the St. Paul A.M.E. Church, the goal of our food pantry, ministry, and our hard-working volunteers, and partnership organizations, is to meet the needs and provide relief to the families and individuals impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic with food and personal hygiene items,” said Sister Frances Lewis, director of the food pantry at St. Paul A.M.E. Church, which operates every Wednesday 3-5pm and Thursday 12-2pm. “As challenging times of the winter months approach us, the number of people who need food will continue to grow,” she added.

The Cambridge Community Foundation has supported a range of nonprofits addressing hunger and other emergency needs since March 2020. The Foundation administered $65,000 in grants to Food For Free, a key provider of food for local families and organizations. Organizations providing wrap around services that include food programs, have also received funding as well: $70,000 to Cambridge Economic Opportunity Committee; $40,000 to Margaret Fuller Neighborhood House; $47,500 to Cambridge Community Center; $65,000 to East End House; and more. During the pandemic, the Foundation has invested a total of $1.9 million in the community through grants to nonprofits and direct assistance to individuals, families, artists and musicians.

The Foundation will be allocating more grants in the coming weeks to address urgent needs. Its Program Committee will assess potential organizations and allocate grants on an ongoing basis. Since early November, the Foundation has raised over $170,000 in new, flexible funding for the Cambridge COVID-19 Emergency Fund and will continue to raise dollars to help with food, shelter, cash to pay bills and buy essentials, connectivity, and childcare. Donate to the Fund here.

About the Cambridge Community Foundation and its COVID-19 emergency response:

The Cambridge Community Foundation (CCF) is the local giving platform for Cambridge supporting our city’s shared prosperity, social equity, and cultural richness, with roots that go a century deep. A grantmaker, philanthropic partner, and civic leader, the Foundation connects sectors across the community to highlight emerging and critical needs and catalyze efforts to ensure resources are focused where they can make the greatest difference. 

This year, in addition to distributing grants to 150 nonprofits serving the Cambridge community involved in human services, workforce training, housing, hunger, homelessness, elder services, youth and early childhood services, education, the Foundation has raised and distributed over $2 million in COVID-19 relief funds. In March 2020, the Foundation established the Cambridge COVID-19 Emergency Fund and the Cambridge Artist Relief Fund, and over four months, raised and distributed more than $1.2 million in partnership with its donors to help 1,475 individuals, families, and artists; 29 nonprofits offering cash assistance to our vulnerable populations; and 36 arts organizations. Later in the year, two more grants were allocated from the fund. In partnership with the Massachusetts COVID-19 Relief Fund, the Foundation distributed $695,000 in grants to 23 nonprofits in Cambridge, Somerville, and Medford. Its initiative Feeding Our Hometown Heroes funded the delivery of over 4,000 local, nutritious restaurant meals to overworked frontline hospital staff in spring 2020, while supporting restaurant workers affected by COVID-19. The Cultural Capital Fund was created in partnership with the City of Cambridge to support arts and cultural institutions now and in the future. The Cambridge COVID-19 Emergency Fund is now focused on funding nonprofits continuing to respond to the pandemic’s effects on our local area.


Lauren Marshall, director of Marketing and Civic Engagement, Cambridge Community Foundation

[email protected]617-872-6543