First Delivery of Heat-n-Eats Single-Serve Meals a Success!
Originally published by Food for Free
After a two-year, pandemic-induced hiatus, our meal program – Heat-n-Eats – is back in action!
Seeing a need for people without access to kitchens or time to prepare meals, Food For Free began making and redistributing healthy microwavable dinners completely made up of rescued food in 2016.
After operating ‘Family Meals’ out of temporary spots for several years, Food For Free received an incredibly generous donation of a new preparation kitchen by Biogen and the Biogen Foundation in 2019. The 500-square-foot space, located directly in the Biogen headquarters was built pro-bono by the biotech firm for the sole use of Food For Free.
When COVID first hit in March 2020, safety precautions like work-from-home and remote education essentially eliminated incoming food from corporate and university dining operations. Without a dependable source of prepared food donations and complexities in accessing Biogen’s facilities in the midst of a global pandemic required the program to halt operations. However, after an almost two-year hiatus, we are thrilled to say this meal program is back.
Thanks to our first donation of rescued food from Harvard University’s dining halls, the kitchen doors opened mid-February. And in the first week, Food For Free volunteers assembled over 200 single-serve meals – each complete with a protein, a starch, and vegetables.
Heat-n-Eats nutritious, fully-cooked meals are frozen, packaged, and sealed for consumption and transported to our partner agencies in Food For Free’s refrigerated trucks. The meals are delivered to local schools, community colleges, and other organizations that serve people who face barriers to cooking for themselves.
“This program started as an innovative way to not only utilize the immense amount of prepared food that had, historically, been going to waste but also provide an incredible resource to underserved populations – families and individuals who, for a variety of reasons, lack the access or ability to cook for themselves.” CEO of Food For Free Sasha Purpura explains, “It’s a relief to welcome volunteers back into the Biogen kitchen and restart this critical program because the pandemic has only increased the need for access to healthy food – especially in our colleges and schools.”
In 2018, the GAO commissioned a nationwide study of food insecurity on college campuses and found that on average over 30% of all full-time enrolled students in the U.S. need help. This study was completed pre-pandemic, and it is likely that the numbers have increased since then. And according to hunger-relief partners The Greater Boston Food Bank and Project Bread, child hunger has doubled due to the pandemic.
“As we ramp this program back up, we are prioritizing local community colleges, adult education, and public elementary schools.” Sam McDermott, Heat-n-Eats Program Manager at Food For Free, speaks to the outreach strategy, “We find this program not only benefits students and families struggling with hunger, but the established networks in the school system enable us to meet people in need where they are in all sorts of situations.”
MEALS MADE, MEALS DELIVERED!
Thanks to Food For Free’s refrigerated vehicles and Sam’s outreach, as of Monday, February 28th, the program is back on the road! Sam made the first Heat-N-Eats meal delivery of 160 balanced, microwavable meals to Gardner Pilot Academy (GPA).
GPA is a Boston Public School that serves hundreds of students and families in Allston, MA. They will receive weekly deliveries of Heat-n-Eats meals while the Gardner Adult Education Program’s English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) is in session.
“GPA’s Adult Education ESOL Program began distributing Food For Free’s Family Meals, now Heat-n-Eats, in spring 2017 to address the issue of food insecurity among our population.” GPA’s Adult Education Director Michelle Duval shares, “To date over 18,000 healthy frozen meals have been distributed to our ESOL learners and their families.”
She continues, “This partnership has had a positive impact on our community, providing hard-working families with meals that are both healthy and quick to prepare. The fact that years later our students keep returning for more meals proves how valuable the service is.”
To learn more about this program and/or request these frozen, healthy meals for your organization, visit our Heat-n-Eats page for more information!