Last year, the Lynn Shelter Association placed 67 families — comprised of some 300 individuals — in permanent housing.
There are 64 units in the association’s three family shelters, and each family gets a key to their own room, which includes a small refrigerator and food cabinet. The shelters also have large kitchens and congregate dining areas. LSA provides families with a safe, supportive space and three meals daily from the Greater Boston Food Bank. Snacks are also provided.
Mark Evans, executive director of the Lynn Shelter Association, and Tom Lorello, director of Clinical Operations and Training, said food issues mostly occur before and after individuals and families become LSA clients.
“When they’re with us, there is food, they are fed,” said Lorello. “Before they join us and when they leave us, there’s often a choice: rent or electricity or food.”
“When our clients have moved on from us, out of a family shelter, that’s when food insecurity hits,” said Evans. “There’s a real stigma for parents. They don’t want to admit that there’s not enough food. It hits every button. … they can’t put enough food on the table, they can’t care for their kids.”
The parents have already accomplished so much in establishing a home base for their family, but it’s human nature to focus on the negative, they say.
Evans and Lorello added that the elderly are the association’s fastest-growing population, and that accessing good, nutritious food is a real issue for this group, which often is also battling health issues.
Evans said last winter the LSA offered a cooking program that taught parents and caregivers in its family shelters how to prepare simple, quick, healthy meals on a budget.
Participants learned about plant-based nutrition and how to reduce the risk for type-2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer, all of which affect low-income, underserved populations.
“The program also teaches (participants) how their money can go a lot further,” added Evans. “A balanced diet of fruits, vegetables … it’s going to cost. It’s easier and cheaper to buy carbs, potatoes, cereal. But that’s not always healthy.”
For those eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), area farmers markets double the benefits: each $1 food stamp is worth $2.
The homeless population served by LSA eats at My Brother’s Table. “They do a remarkable job there,” said Evans. “My Brother’s Table feeds a lot of people every day, a lot of the city’s working poor.”
LSA assists individuals experiencing homelessness around the clock every day of the year. Its outreach program also reaches those living on the street. Its emergency shelter serves more than 500 adult homeless men and women each year, providing snacks, coffee and a safe space.