Brown Bag Narrative – Ruth and Lucille
Although Ruth and Lucille have lived through two great economic slumps, they cannot remember a time when they did not have enough to eat. “We never went hungry during the Great Depression,” says Lucille, who grew up on a potato farm in Maine. “And we’re able to get by now, too.” Far from her childhood home, Lucille, 79, now resides in the Dorn Davies Senior Center in Brockton. She and Ruth, who is 84, have lived in the center for over 20 years, keeping each other company through booms and busts, and most recently watching the prices of food, fuel, and healthcare skyrocket while their government assistance checks have shrunk.
For low-income seniors on fixed incomes, any cuts to government assistance can be devastating. This is where The Greater Boston Food Bank’s (GBFB’s) Brown Bag program enters the picture. When food from SNAP (formerly food stamps) and other programs starts to run out, seniors are able to stock up on fresh and healthy staples that will get them through the month. Currently at 14 different community and senior center locations across eastern Massachusetts, over 7,600 seniors like Ruth and Lucille receive a grocery bag full of healthy food items delivered by GBFB each month through the Brown Bag program.
With a 45% increase in the number of seniors GBFB has served from 2005 to 2009, programs such as Brown Bag are more important now than ever before. “The need is there,” says Bob Fuda, longtime director of Dorn Davies (a program of Brockton Area Multi-Services, Inc.). “We have people coming in here who have never had to ask for anything in their lives. Some are working full time and just can’t make ends meet.” In the ten years that the Brown Bag program has been at Dorn Davies, Fuda says he’s seen the number of participants grow from 200 to 750. He now delivers to other area senior housing facilities as well.
The Brown Bag program is also a boon because of its convenience, especially for seniors with mobility issues. As Brockton offers few public transportation choices and cars are often too expensive or impractical to maintain, many seniors are left without options. But with Brown Bag, explains Lucille, “we don’t have to go to the food – the food comes to us.” Each month they look forward to a grocery bag full of a variety of high-quality produce, meats, and non-perishable items, from sweet potatoes to ground turkey to shelf-stable milk, all packed by local volunteers.
For Ruth and Lucille, the Brown Bag program is as much about the food as it is about the camaraderie. Each month they work alongside these dedicated volunteers who return to unload food and pack bags for seniors and families to pick up or have delivered directly to housing facilities. Many volunteers are recipients of the bags themselves and take distinct pride in giving back to their communities. Others come to volunteer with the program through schools, corporations, and local organizations.
“It’s a wonderful program,” says Lucille. Although the economic climate may resemble that of their childhood, community initiatives such as Brown Bag help to ensure that she and other seniors around the region “never go hungry.” And for that, she says, “we are very fortunate.”
About the Brown Bag Program
GBFB’s Brown Bag program addresses the problem of senior hunger in eastern Massachusetts. In operation for over ten years, the Brown Bag program partners with 14 local community organizations to provide nutritious, supplemental bags of groceries to over 7,600 seniors and families in need each month.
Our Brown Bag partner organizations are uniquely positioned to identify pockets of hunger in their respective communities. They include senior and community centers located in Brighton, Brockton, Charlestown, Chelsea, Fall River, Harwich, Haverhill, Lawrence, Lowell, Lynn, Mattapan, Somerville, Quincy, and Taunton.
Public Relations Manager
The Greater Boston Food Bank
70 South Bay Ave.
Boston, MA 02118-2701