Boston Shrine Dedicates Innovative New Food & Baby Program

HNP Communications Features

BOSTON — To help meet the needs of more people struggling in today’s bad economy — especially the hungry and parents of young children — Saint Anthony Shrine is launching The Franciscan Food Center and Baby Place, the first food pantry in downtown Boston that lets clients actually select groceries. 

Set to open on Oct. 15, the Food Center offers an experience that is more like grocery shopping, rather than getting a handout, according to shrine Executive Director David Convertino, OFM, who dedicated the new center at a Sept. 29 Mass. Clients will be able to choose food items that they want, rather than be handed pre-packaged bundles of groceries, as other food programs do. 

Called the “Client Choice” program, this kind of food program “ensures that human dignity is upheld in this great time of need for everyone,” said Jim Greene, director of Boston’s Emergency Shelter Commission on Homelessness and Hunger, who attended the dedication, along with Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and other city hunger prevention officials. 

“We receive several calls a week from people in great need,” said David.  “These are people who tell us that they often are forced to choose between putting food on the table or gas in the car — or between food and medicine. After so many calls, the friars who live here decided to do something about the problem,” he said.

The center will provide dry food, fresh produce and dairy products, as well as frozen meats to clients who are referred to the shrine by seven client partners. Baby Place will offer formula, baby food, diapers, and clothing for children aged infant to toddler.

Director of the new Food Center is Paul Lostritto, OFM, who said, “In the spirit of St. Francis, we will strive to end hunger.” He appealed to all members of the Saint Anthony Shrine community to support the center, with both volunteer time and donations.

“This is a unique program,” said Catherine D’Amato, president and CEO of the Greater Boston Food Bank. “The fact that you are offering a pantry designed for working families centrally located in the heart of downtown Boston makes this program the first of its kind in this city. We are happy to be working with the Shrine on this exciting project. I know of no other program like this and I have been at the Greater Boston Food Bank for 12 years,” she said.

“We are very pleased to be partnering with The Franciscan Food Center,” said Eileen O’Shea of the Greater Boston Food Bank. “This is exactly the type of pantry we need in downtown Boston, particularly because it is targeting the many working families who have a real need in light of today’s economy,” she said.

Client partners who might use the Food Center and Baby Place include the Shrine’s Kids’ Program, Seniors’ Program and Mychal Judge Center for Recovery, Project Hope, Cathedral Grammar School, Nativity Preparatory School, and North Cambridge Catholic High School. Other clients will be individually reviewed. Clients will also attend classes on nutrition and effective shopping skills.

A story about the Food Center video appeared in the Aug. 6, 2008, HNP Today.  A video about the Food Center appears on You Tube.

Shown in the photo above is David Convertino.