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Making Food Accessible, One Rescue at a Time


West Roxbury, Massachusetts: April 23, 2023 - Volunteers fill boxes with rescued food at the Roslindale Food Collective every Sunday, feeding over 100 families every week. The boxes consisted almost entirely of free, rescued food from grocery stores and suppliers that would otherwise be thrown away. (Photo by Lydia Prendergast)

The Boston Community is taking initiative to fight against food insecurity, together.

By Lydia Prendergast

"Did you know that Massachusetts alone is on track to waste millions of tons of food this year?" is one of the first ​points Charlie Burns, Food Rescue US Boston site director, brings up in conversation. With ReFed’s 2021 statistics just released, Burns’ point, and work, is topical. The national nonprofit's statistics read: “In 2021, the U.S. let a huge 38% of the 241 million tons in our food supply go unsold or uneaten… 1 in 10 Americans are food insecure” (

While the statistics seem bleak, community members, such as Burns herself, are working to combat this. In August 2022, after discovering that Food Rescue US had no one to run a Boston branch, Burns stepped up to the plate “with nothing but sheer grit, a laptop, and my SUV.” The goal was to complete 500 rescues in the first year - but as of April, 1,000 rescues, almost 400,000 meals, have been completed. And Burns is not in the fight alone.


West Roxbury, Massachusetts: April 23, 2023 - Charlie Burns, site director of the Food Rescue US Boston branch, makes an effort to attend every rescue she can. "Rescued food is free food," she says. (Photo by Lydia Prendergast)


West Roxbury, Massachusetts: April 23, 2023 - Leah Arteaga (right), founder and director of Roslindale Food Collective, greets all volunteers, new and old, with a smile. For the past four years, Arteaga has made food accessible to locals by requiring no form of ID, and nothing but a first name. (Photo by Lydia Prendergast)

She is partnered with various grocery stores and grassroots organizations, like the Roslindale Food Collective. Founded by Leah Arteaga, no identification is required from the collective’s community members; this initiative gives locals food access without any prerequisites. Every Sunday, Arteaga and committed volunteers go to the Trinity Lutheran Church, rain or shine, to distribute food boxes to over 100 families.

What stands out most is the strength and determination of the community. “Everybody becomes a vessel for each other; the tentacles are far reaching” a volunteer says. 


West Roxbury, Massachusetts: April 23, 2023 - While waiting for the local church services to end before using the space, volunteers gather in the parking lot and look over some of the donations. In an attempt to destigmatize food insecurity, volunteers were allowed (and encouraged) to take whatever food they wanted or needed, without any attention drawn. (Photo by Lydia Prendergast)


West Roxbury, Massachusetts: April 23, 2023 - Even in the pouring rain, volunteers work to supply food to their community. “This amazing community comes together from all parts of Massachusetts,” one volunteer said. (Photo by Lydia Prendergast)


West Roxbury, Massachusetts: April 23, 2023 - Members of the community, young and old, take part in assembling the food boxes. Every volunteer is given a job, and within 40 minutes, the food boxes go from being disorganized to well-balanced and ready for distribution. (Photo by Lydia Prendergast)


West Roxbury, Massachusetts: April 23, 2023 - Food boxes are created to be as balanced as possible with the supplies given, containing breads, produce, snacks, and even prepared meals. “But people are eating what they get,” Charlie Burns, Foos Rescue US Boston site director said. “It’s not always culturally relevant or nutritious.” (Photo by Lydia Prendergast)


West Roxbury, Massachusetts: April 23, 2023 - While the food boxes are free, the Roslindale Food Collective has a separate tent set up with all the meats, which are $2 or pay what you can. Big stores freeze the extra meat overnight right before its expiration date and then hand it off to food rescue initiatives such as the collective. (Photo by Lydia Prendergast)


West Roxbury, Massachusetts: April 23, 2023 - Boxes full of milk sit in the rain, ready to be handed out. On just this Sunday, over 20 cartons of drinkable milk, that would have been thrown away, were rescued. (Photo by Lydia Prendergast)


Boston, Massachusetts: April 24, 2023 - Food Rescue US volunteer, Kirsten Hansen, brings leftover food from the Four Seasons Hotel to the Women’s Lunch Place every week. In response to why she volunteers, Kirsten said, “I became radicalized against minimalism… there is so much waste." (Photo by Lydia Prendergast)

The Roslindale Food Collective is just one of the many organizations Burns partners with. She paired up the Four Seasons Hotel and Women’s Lunch Place, so that the quality hotel food would go to more than just its paying residents. Volunteer Kirsten Hansen spends her Monday mornings completing this rescue, using the resources she has to give back. “I’ve been all over,” Kirsten says. “I try to find some place to volunteer with wherever I go.” 


Boston, Massachusetts: April 24, 2023 - Food rescuer Kirsten Hansen spends her Monday mornings waiting for the extra breakfast food from the Four Seasons Hotel to be packaged up and brought outside. She volunteers for Food Rescue US, among other organizations, as a fight against waste. (Photo by Lydia Prendergast)


A safe space for women, the Women’s Lunch Place is making active efforts to lean on- and give back- to their community. Assistant kitchen manager Inna Khitrik states that “66% of the women that come here only get their food here.”

Boston, Massachusetts: April 24, 2023 - Food rescuer Kirsten Hansen waits outside the doors of the Women’s Lunch Place. While the door used to be unlocked for all food donations, the lunch place recently had to lock it for safety concerns. “This is meant to be a safe space,” Kirsten said. (Photo by Lydia Prendergast)

This generosity comes from the dire need for food accessibility. The infrastructure is present, as Boston has over 23 community fridges, but needs attention. There is a flourishing “grassroots network of dedicated people who are working to make a difference in their community. Imagine what would be possible if we could create a real public sector for food?” Burns says. The community would be able to connect on more than just a need basis.


West Roxbury, Massachusetts: April 23, 2023 - A volunteer hands out milk to a community member. This human connection is the driving force behind the Roslindale Food Collective. (Photo by Lydia Prendergast)

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