“A couple of days ago, we had a box of produce from Spoonfuls filled with things like artichokes, avocados, mangos, and hot peppers. A family came in, and you could tell when they looked at the fruit, they were already thinking about what they would make for dinner. The grandmother looked at her child and said, ‘I can teach you how to make this.’”
This is one of many stories Cherylann Walsh, President of Project Just Because, and Erica Solitro, Project Just Becaue’s Food Manager, shared recently with our team: stories that tell the tale of not just food access but also of the way food can bring people together. From the passing down of cultural cooking traditions, like the grandmother eyeing avocados, to a dad who’s able to get snacks for their child’s playdate, food is a building block for much in our lives – and access to relevant ingredients not only helps to people fill people’s tummies, but foster human connection.
That’s why we’re grateful to work with nonprofits, like Project Just Because, a Hopkinton-based organization serving people across Massachusetts working towards a model of “dignity, hope, and love.” In addition to food they offer additional resources: from support services for survivors of domestic violence to clothing and backpack programs for kids.
Responding to increased rates of food insecurity over the past two years from the Covid-19 pandemic and inflation, Project Just Because has been able to expand to meet the moment. First they opened a gluten-free pantry that has been critical for people with gluten allergies who need to access food that’s both affordable and safe for them to eat. Underscoring the importance of the program, Cherylann recalls, “A mother told me, she brought her son to the emergency room because ‘gluten free’ food they received elsewhere wasn’t actually gluten free-certified. She just wanted food that wouldn’t make him sick.”
In August 2020, Project Just Because expanded its town pantry, too, to a “no-barrier” food pantry. That means, while – before the switch – pantry guests had to live in Hopkinton to receive food, now anyone living in Massachusetts could access the pantry at Project Just Because.
In 2021, the program received its first regular delivery from Lovin’ Spoonfuls. That, said Erica, “allows us to mix in harder-to-get items, like papayas and plantains, which helps us offer more items that are culturally relevant.”
At the end of September, Project Just Because will continue to grow with their move, just down the street, to a larger facility. Their “forever home” will allow them to bring in more food, work more efficiently, and continue to be a valuable resource for people across the Commonwealth. Spoonfuls will be expanding this fall, too, with a second food rescue route in MetroWest that will enable us to increase deliveries of rescued food to Project Just Because, among other partners in the area. We look forward to seeing more of them each week and continuing to work together on food access in MetroWest!