Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the East Boston Community Soup Kitchen (EBCSK) was forced to stop serving hot meals on Tuesdays from the basement of the Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church on Paris Street. Instead, staff handed out grocery gift cards to residents and families in need.
“It’s hard to believe it has been more than three months since we’ve gathered together for Tuesday meal services,” said EBCSK Founder and Director Sandra Nijjar. “Our work has looked very different during this time, as we’ve focused our efforts on safely distributing grocery gift cards to our neighbors in need. For the past three months we have been seeing our soup kitchen guests by appointment to give a Shaw’s Supermarket gift card to those who don’t have a mailing address, and to those who have a home we sent it by mail. We have also given a meal voucher to those who don’t have a home to cook in. We have also given lunch meals and bags with groceries that some of our local organizations have shared with us.”
Nijjar said behind the scenes the soup kitchen’s leadership team has been hard at work monitoring COVID19 developments and cautiously planning its next phase of service as the state enters Phase III of the reopening.
“We are eager to once again offer weekly meals in a safe and welcoming environment for guests and volunteers,” said Nijjar. “As a first step, we plan to transition to a ‘take-out’ model, where guests can pick up a hot, nutritious mid-day meal to-go, along with supplemental groceries and personal care items. There is much to do to prepare for this new service. This coordinated effort will largely rely on the generosity of donors and volunteers, and everyone’s partnership in maintaining COVID-19 health and safety standards.”
Nijjar said July 8 and 9 will be the last days that the soup kitchen will be seeing clients by appointment and it will be the last time EBCSK will be giving out the gift cards.
“The soup kitchen will temporarily close to clean up and disinfect and prepare the kitchen for hot meals service starting towards the end of the month,” said Nijjar.
Dates that the EBCSK will be closed are July 16, 17, 22, and 23 and will reopen on Tuesday, July 28 for takeout only, said Nijjar.
As EBCSK begins to cautiously get back to some sense of normalcy Nijjar said the soup kitchen is looking for the community to support its efforts.
Nijjar said there are a few ways to help EBCSK and interested residents can donate cleaning/sanitation supplies–including hand soap, hand sanitizer, disinfectant sprays and wipes, paper towels, and gloves.
“Residents can also make a monetary donation so we can purchase needed supplies, including face coverings, directly,” said Nijjae. “Every donation, of every amount, makes a difference.”
Residents can also sponsor a meal service prepared by an EBCSK partner restaurant that can serve approximately 200 guests.
“Residents can also volunteer during the weekly meal services or lend expertise if you have experience reopening in the COVID19 environment,” said Nijjar. “We are hopeful that with your help we will be able to offer weekly take-out meal service for our guests toward the end of July. Please reach out to us if you can help.”
Nijjar said EBCSK volunteers are extremely grateful and humbled by the support that they have received from so many kind and generous organizations throughout the pandemic–such as Cargo Ventures, Channel Fish, Empower East Boston, Resurrection Church, The Boston Foundation, and Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church. ]
“Thank you, everyone, for helping us out during this coronavirus crisis,” said Nijjar. “We are blessed to have your support. We would also like to give a huge thank you to our brothers and sisters from the BCYF Paris Street Community Centerand also to the Eastie Farm team for sharing their food supplies with us at the East Boston Community Soup Kitchen so that we can help our most marginalized folks. We are immensely grateful to have your support and partnership.”