Family Meals Kitchen
Photo courtesy of Food for Free


In-Kind Space Donation Will Enable Food for Free to Help Feed Hungry Families

  • We donated space and brought together vendors to build a new kitchen, solving a key challenge facing the local nonprofit
  • New kitchen will be a real win-win-win as families facing food insecurity will be fed, employees will have a new on-site volunteer opportunity and food waste will be avoided

Food for Free has for years collected donated fresh produce, dry goods, canned foods and breadstuffs from local stores to help feed Cambridge’s hungriest families.

Meanwhile, in the dining halls of nearby universities such as Harvard, MIT and Lesley, significant amounts of their commissaries’ prepared food winds up in the compost bin, at best. Until recently, no one had found a way to repurpose unused café meals into dinners for hungry kids and families. “It’s insane,” asserts Food for Free’s Director, Sasha Purpura. “We are throwing away tremendous amounts of food and there are people next door that aren't getting enough.”

To remedy this, the organization recently launched Family Meals, part of their Prepared Foods Rescue program, which collects prepared items frozen in bulk, then repurposes and packages them into thousands of heat-and-eat meals for local families that face food insecurity or barriers to cooking for themselves.

“Last year we rescued 57,000 pounds of prepared food,” Purpura notes. “This year we're projecting 64,000 pounds, or about 30,000 meals”. But when the lease for the rented kitchen used by Family Meals was not renewed last year, Food for Free did not know where to turn.

To explore a possible solution, a Food for Free board member and former Biogen employee reached out to Ed Dondero, Biogen’s Director of Facilities, to ask for help. “My first thought was, ‘we use all the space we have’,” recalls Dondero. “But we put our heads together and asked, ‘Is there anything we can do creatively?’”

There was a bicycle storage area at our Cambridge headquarters and a portion of the space was just being used to store surplus materials. Ed saw possibility in the space and collaborated with the landlord and city commissioners to rezone it for use as a kitchen. Several of our construction vendors built the space pro-bono, with materials we donated, and voila! – a fully dedicated 500-square-foot kitchen came to life. Family Meals moves into the new space in the spring of 2019 and, once fully operational, will have the capacity to produce up to four times the number of meals they currently can for Cambridge families who need them. Now, with a permanent and dedicated kitchen, Purpura believes 100,000 meals are just a few years down the road. 

Life Science Cares, a Boston-based organization whose mission is to help families meet their basic needs, works closely with Food for Free and draws financial resources and employee volunteers from the strong community of life science companies in the area to assist the Family Meals program, including Biogen.

“It’s a win all around,” says Dondero. A win indeed. For Family Meals, for Biogen, for our employees and those from Life Science Cares eager to volunteer, and for children and families living with food insecurity and hunger in our community.