The Greater Boston Food Bank works to battle food insecurity with annual Hunger Free Holidays Fundraising Campaign


The Greater Boston Food Bank, has held the Hunger Free Holidays campaign for the past 11 years, battling food insecurity. Photo credit: “On Food: Greater Boston Food Bank” by TheBeachSaint is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Isabella Ratto, news correspondent

Every December since 2010, the Greater Boston Food Bank, or GBFB, has held the Hunger Free Holidays campaign. The month-long program works to raise funds that will help GBFB reach individuals and families facing food insecurity not only during the winter season, but throughout the following year. To achieve the GBFB’s goal of $2,650,000, Boston-area corporations, groups and individuals who run campaigns on behalf of the foodbank have gotten involved. 

“Through what we call ‘Peer-to-Peer fundraising,’ folks can really easily create a website on our system and they’re then able to send out a link to all their friends and family. It becomes a real viral effort and a really easy way to raise a lot of money,” said David Giagrando, GBFB’s senior director of development . 

Gary Roy, assistant director at GBFB, agreed that people are what truly influences the campaign’s success. 

“Hunger Free Holidays could not be what it is without immense community involvement and support. Word of mouth is really big for us,” Roy said. “People talking about the issue of food insecurity with their neighbors and friends and just raising awareness about what we are doing.”

The growth of the program and the involvement of sponsors have been important, Giagrando said. A few partners are Biogen Corp and Stop & Shop. 

“They provide enough money to actually motivate others to give. These groups — and some other anonymous donors —  are matching the money that is raised up to $650,000. So if someone raises or gives money, the amount is actually doubled,” Giagrando said. 

The food bank’s annual impact reaches much of Eastern Massachusetts, where they work with various distribution centers to distribute meals. One partner of GBFB is Medway Village Church’s Food Pantry. 

“We have distributed over 60,000 pounds of food just from the GBFB alone, over 104,000 pounds of food overall for … 2021,” said Susan Dietrich, who helps organize food distribution for Medway Village Church. “The GBFB has been instrumental in allowing us to meet the needs of the food insecure community and we are very grateful for the support they provide us on a day in and day out basis.” 

With the funds raised from the Hunger Free Holidays campaign, both the GBFB and Medway Village Church can help provide food security to about 660,000 people in Eastern Massachusetts, Giagrando said. Beyond that, he added that the GBFB also serves 191 cities and towns, reaching Provincetown, Worcester and towns located along the New Hampshire border. The impact this organization has is directly related to the amount of money they raise. 

“Funds are critical to us because that’s what allows us to meet the need,” Giagrando said. 

Hunger Free Holidays also helps to raise awareness about food insecurity on a global scale. It is an issue that is often misunderstood, simplified as a byproduct of homelessness and poverty. 

“One in every 10 individuals struggles with food insecurity. It’s a pervasive problem, not just in Boston, but across the country and across the world which makes it all the more important to educate individuals and students about,” Roy said. 

Through fundraising, GBFB can focus on altering people’s lives by giving them  peace of mind when it comes to putting food on the table. While the organization receives donations all year, the Hunger Free Holidays campaign makes up a great portion of their budget.

“Food insecurity … doesn’t necessarily mean people are in poverty, it means they have to make difficult choices because there may not be enough resources to pay all the bills. So the choice is do you pay your mortgage or do you buy food? Do you pay the electric bill or do you buy food?” Giagrando said. 

Beyond giving money, there are other ways to assist the organization in battling local food insecurity. Volunteers are crucial to the food bank’s ability to effectively distribute large volumes of food on a regular basis and since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the GBFB has seen fewer volunteers than in years past.

“We don’t expect students to donate money, but there are always volunteer positions open within the [GBFB] which offers them another way to get involved in the Boston area. We always need people to help sort and package food items,” Roy said. 

Hunger Free Holidays ends Friday, Dec. 31 but the impact of the funds it has raised will be felt over the next year as the GBFB continues to serve individuals and families in Eastern Massachusetts.