Community-based meal programs


Project Bread funds over 430 community-based meal programs in 125 communities across Massachusetts. Together these food pantries and soup kitchens reported serving over 61 million meals in 2012.

These local neighborhood programs provide bags of groceries or a hot meal to families who face the tough choice of feeding their families or paying for rent, medical, or fuel costs. Unemployment, medical bills, and the housing crisis leave little money left for healthy nutritious food.  

Project Bread’s funded community-based meal programs include food pantries, soup kitchens, food banks, food salvage, and health center hunger programs.  


Community-based meal programs that Help

Food Pantries                      

Food Pantries provide people in need with a bag or box of groceries for free, which they take home to prepare their own meals. To use a pantry, you generally need to have a working kitchen. Pantries provide an average of three days of groceries for individuals and families each month. Need to find a food pantry? Call our Food Source Hotline: 1-800-645-8333

Soup Kitchens 

Soup kitchens prepare meals on a regular basis for people in need. Programs vary widely. A typical soup kitchen serves a complete, nutritionally balanced meal from a communal kitchen located in a common space or church basement.  

Home-Delivered Meals

These programs, sometimes known as a version of “meals-on-wheels,” bring a lunch daily to disabled or other low-income people with serious medical conditions who are homebound and cannot cook for themselves. Therapeutic meals may be available for certain medical conditions, and some programs also offer frozen weekend meals.

Food Banks                        

Food banks are low-cost and free food distribution centers. They seek out and distribute salvaged, low cost, and government food to emergency food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, and other agencies. They also distribute food purchased through the Massachusetts Emergency Food Assistance Program (generally known as MEFAP), which is funded by the state and the USDA Commodity Supplemental Food Program. Agency staff and volunteers shop at food banks and then distribute the food to hungry people at their own agencies. Food banks do not distribute food directly to individuals except through special programs such as their Brown Bag program and Kids Café.

Food Salvage                

These programs search for and collect donated food from individuals, food retailers, manufacturers, and other companies. They then give the food to emergency food programs for distribution to people in need.  

Farms and Community Gardens

There is a small but growing number of farms and community gardens, which produce fresh produce for emergency food programs. Some also distribute their fresh fruits and vegetables directly to low-income people.

Health Center Hunger Programs

For several years, Project Bread has fostered a screening and intervention program for hungry families who use neighborhood health centers. While part of this work is “preventive,” that is, it seeks to prevent hunger by helping the family or individual enroll in SNAP or WIC, there are times when a family needs immediate emergency help. In these cases, Project Bread makes food vouchers available and connects these families with the FoodSource Hotline for additional help.

Elderly couple in line for food at a local food drive.