Community Preservation: Expanding Food Access in Brighton during COVID-19

Aerial view of North Brighton and the Charles River Speedway, an adaptive reuse project led by the Architectural Heritage Foundation (AHF).
Aerial view of the Charles River Speedway and North Brighton.

What can I do?

It’s a simple question that leads to a conversation, then to an idea, then to action. And it’s a question that countless people in Boston and beyond have been asking and answering, with powerful results.

The Coronavirus shutdown has thrown many Massachusetts households into financial turmoil. Since March 15, approximately 650,000 people – seventeen percent of the labor force – have filed for unemployment benefits. Low-income communities with already high levels of food insecurity have been particularly hard-hit. In Chelsea, a pandemic hotspot home to a large number of hospitality workers, food pantries open their doors to encounter lines stretching around the block. The Greater Boston Food Bank distributed more food to participating communities in March than at any other point in the last forty years. So many cars lined up outside Oasis Food Pantry in Springfield during a Friday distribution that they blocked traffic, and the operation had to shut down until a new location was found.

At times like these, Mister Rogers’ oft-quoted wisdom comes to mind: “Look for the helpers.”  AHF has found them, and we are touched that many are people we know – our business partners, elected officials, members of the communities we serve. For example, Charles River Community Health (which abuts the Speedway) teamed up with the Greater Boston Food Bank and State Representatives Michael Moran of Brighton and Jonathan Hecht of Watertown to coordinate a drive-through distribution of two hundred boxes of fresh produce to Allston-Brighton families. Our friend and colleague Maggie Battista is working with local wholesaler Katsiroubas Brothers to donate fresh produce to Chelsea Collaborative; so far, she has raised enough money to fund the distribution of nearly seven hundred boxes, each with enough fresh food to feed a family for up to a week. It is both uplifting and humbling to know that acts such as these are taking place across Massachusetts every day.

Inspired by the generosity of our partners and neighbors, AHF plans to join ongoing local efforts to battle food insecurity in Allston-Brighton, where the Speedway project is located. Preservation is not only about historic buildings; it’s about the communities that give them meaning. Whether through adaptive reuse or food distribution, we hope to play even a small role in strengthening a neighborhood that has already proven its resilience and capacity for hope.

Follow AHF’s blog and FacebookInstagram, and Twitter pages for more information on how you can help us to support local communities in need at this time.

Let’s work together.