By Rob Wright, Chief Editor, Life Science Leader
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Food for Free is a food “rescue” organization in Cambridge, MA. “They take food that would otherwise be thrown away and repackage it in a dignified and safe way to ensure that it is properly stored and can be given to hungry families within one to two days,” says Rob Perez, founder of Life Science Cares, a collective effort of the life sciences industry to eliminate the impact of poverty in the greater Boston area. “When we found them, they were an important organization in the Cambridge area.” And though it had been around for a while, it was extremely small. But one of its board members also happened to be on the Life Science Cares board of advisors, which is how it came to their attention.
Historically, Food For Free took cafeteria leftovers from area universities (i.e., Harvard and MIT) and repackaged them into TV-dinner-style meals to be distributed through a network of hunger-organizations partners. “They had tried to access the life science community in Cambridge, but had very little success,” Perez elaborates. “And when we asked how we could help, they said they could use our assistance with accessing some of the corporate cafeterias in and around Kendall Square.” Life Science Cares was able to bring together the food-service folks and vendors in six of the largest companies located in Kendall Square. “We had them meet Food for Free and answered their questions about liability and logistics, and within a couple of weeks, had Food For Free picking up leftover food at four of those six organizations.” But the help didn’t stop there. Because now that they had more food, they needed more volunteers to break the food up to be repackaged. So, Life Science Cares set up a regular schedule of volunteer shifts a couple of hours every week for industry volunteers to help.
“Then, they came to us saying they we’re about to lose their space.” In a nutshell, the organization had been doing their work in a church basement. But the church was going to be renovated, and they needed a prep kitchen to do their work. “We put them together with T3 Advisors.” While this company mostly does lab and office design, they were able to help the charity scope out what it was they needed so the idea could be shopped to area companies. “We got a little lucky here, as the first company we went to, Biogen, was able to take an under-utilized space and convert it to a Food For Free prep kitchen, which was customized based on the specs developed by T3. Now, we have volunteers from all different companies showing up at Biogen, doing the volunteer shifts and packaging the food regularly.” But it doesn’t stop there, because now that they have more space and more volunteers, they need more product, so Life Science Cares has been reaching out to companies in Waltham, MA, to schedule food picks ups from area corporate cafeterias in that area.
To learn more about Life Science Cares, and if a chapter could be coming to a biopharma hub near you, be sure to check out Life Science Leader’s March issue.