As the City residents come together to help each other during this crisis, elected officials are among the many who can serve as a resource and someone to reach out to. The Times checked in with District 8 City Councillor Kenzie Bok to see what she has done and will be doing to assist residents both in her district and across the city.
“One of the things I’ve been thinking about since this started is the need to set up a bigger system for delivering food to folks,” Bok said, because a lot of the families and seniors that are already food insecure are used to going places to get food. Many of those places are now shut down, and many residents are following guidelines to stay in their homes, she said.
Bok said that an added element of the outbreak is that now there are even more people at risk of food insecurity due to loss of jobs. “For the last few weeks, I’ve been working with different parts of the City administration to get a more robust food delivery,” she said.
Last week, Bok teamed up with Fenway Cares, an alliance of local Fenway organizations such as the Fenway Civic Association and the Fenway Community Center, to run a pilot program in the Fenway that delivered boxes of fresh produce to people who signed up.
Bok said she chose the Fenway to pilot the program “because that’s a neighborhood that I represent and know well and know a lot of people who rely on those ordinary food programs that have shuttered.”
Fenway Cares partnered with local produce distributor Katsiroubas Bros. Produce as well as Fresh Truck to deliver 318 boxes of fresh produce at no cost to residents over the course of two days, including to senior developments and one of Pine Street Inn’s supportive housing buildings. Residents could sign up both online and by phone to have the boxes delivered to them.
Bok said the Fenway distribution was a way for her to see what the best method of food delivery was, as well as the best method to see what the need is.
She said the pilot was “very successful,” and garnered a lot of positive feedback. “There are a lot of people looking out for their neighbors,” she said, and ”food doesn’t solve the biggest systemic problems, but it’s the first step.”
While the City remains in crisis mode, providing food, shelter, and health services to residents is the main focus right now, Bok said.
Bok said she was so impressed with the “great core of volunteers” in the Fenway who donned gloves and used hand trucks to help deliver the boxes.
As a result of the success of the pilot, the City of Boston funded a Katsiroubas Bros. and Fresh Truck Partnership, which will receive about $500,000 from the new Boston Resiliency fund. This money will allow the produce delivery program to expand beyond the Fenway to residents across the city.
“That pilot came together very quickly,” Bok said. “I can’t speak enough how much it matters that there were a group of volunteers who were ready to help. It’s a testament to the tight-knitness of that neighborhood.”
Across the rest of her district, Bok said that her Mission Hill aide, Henry Santana, is a graduate of the Tobin School “and has been doing a lot of support since the closure of BPS.” She said he has helped families get Chromebooks, has helped with tutoring, and has just generally looked out for the school community. “He’s been amazing on that front,” she said.
Additionally, Councilor Bok’s office has been fielding questions and requests from constituents and trying to work out a system for people to help those in need, as many have reached out to her office wondering how they can help.
Her office is also calling seniors throughout the district starting this week. She said they started by calling some of the leaders of senior buildings and checking in with different housing communities, but moving forward they hope to reach out to seniors on a more individual level and have volunteers who are ready to assist with that.
“I’m spending my time working on housing related issues,” Bok said, as that is her area of policy expertise. She is specifically focused on taking care of large senior and public housing buildings during this crisis.
Lastly, she and the rest of the City Council have to prepare for budget season in new ways, as their traditional ways can no longer be executed.
Bok said she is proud of Boston communities for coming together and “springing into action” to take care of each other during this time of need.
“We’re still in the crisis, emergency part of this,” Bok said. “We’ve got to provide.”