Arlington EATS, GBFB, Food Link, CoA, and Ottoson Work to Help Food Insecure Populations

“We’re doing what we’ve always done”


Specified food items for the OMS food drive can be dropped off in cluster W.I.N. rooms from 2/8-2/12

Sophie S., News Editor

In the town of Arlington, an estimated 4,530 people are food insecure, which translates to approximately 10% of our town’s population. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of food insecure people in Massachusetts has spiked, increasing at a faster rate than any other state in the country. In Arlington, there has been a 35% increase in the number of food insecure people since 2019. To counter the rising numbers, organizations such as Food Link, The Greater Boston Food Bank (GBFB), and Arlington EATS are working together and teaming up with Ottoson Middle School to provide food security to Arlingtonians and people in surrounding towns. 

GBFB and Food Link are two organizations that send food to food distribution organizations in the Boston area. They distribute food to other organizations in the area and do not work with clients directly. Arlington EATS is a food pantry that receives food from both GBFB and Food Link to redistribute, and is also our local source of food for the food insecure. Together, these three organizations have been working to help alleviate hunger throughout Arlington.

Throughout the pandemic, all three of the aforementioned organizations made changes to accommodate the new safety protocols and demands while also expanding their outreach. Both Food Link and Arlington EATS recently began ordering from wholesales to increase the amount of food being distributed as demands increase. In a recent interview, Elise Springuel, the Director of Operations and Community Partnerships for Food Link, said “We didn’t really do work on the wholesale side before, but we’ve really increased there, and we’ve been able to double the amount of food we move in a year as a result of that work.” In addition, Food Link has been renovating their Food Link Headquarters and has added more trucks to their fleet. Meanwhile, Arlington EATS has changed over to contactless delivery only, so that clients and staff can stay safe. Before the pandemic, they mostly operated in-person through their Arlington EATS Market, situated on Pleasant Street in the basement of the St. John’s Episcopal Church. Susan Dorson, program manager for Arlington EATS, told the Insider “Before the pandemic, we delivered to about eight families, once a month, and that was it. […] After the pandemic is over, we’ll probably have a larger number of people to whom we deliver food.” 

Running food distribution centers during a pandemic is not without its challenges. “The biggest challenge is meeting the demand,” explained Rachel Caty, Senior Manager of Nutrition at the GBFB. “It puts a lot of strain on our warehouse employees.” With shortages of food at the beginning of the pandemic, food banks were struggling to find enough food to stock up. While individual families were pulling food and toilet paper off shelves, so were food banks. Dorson asserted that another issue was the fluctuation in the number of people in need and constant change. “It’s hard to predict how many people will order [food] each week. In the fall we had 230-240 [families] ordering every week; this week we had 280. Everything keeps changing.” Food Link’s primary concern is keeping volunteers safe. “We’re constantly keeping up with CDC guidelines,” Springuel said. Despite all this change, some things have stayed the same. “I like to say that throughout the pandemic, at Food Link we’re doing exactly what we’ve always done. We are rescuing food that would otherwise be wasted and delivering it to nonprofits throughout Eastern Massachusetts who can get [the food] to those who need it.”

In Arlington, our local food pantry Arlington EATS is the common denominator in helping the food insecure population. Food Link and The Greater Boston Food Bank both send food to Arlington EATS regularly, providing them with nutritious food for Arlingtonians. Dorson stated, “We’ve always worked well with other organizations in town, but since the pandemic, I think we’ve created tighter bonds.” GBFB is a consistent source of food for Arlington EATS. They receive five to six thousand pounds of food from GBFB every Monday. Additionally, Arlington-based Food Link has been working alongside Arlington EATS. “They’ve always been great at supplying us [with] things that we sometimes are running out of, or that they get that’s kind of special, or that we just need more of and they have access to,” Dorson explained.

Recently, Arlington EATS has formed a close relationship with The Arlington Council on Aging (CoA) as well. The Council on Aging managed the Arlington EATS hotline at the beginning of the pandemic. Although EATS always had volunteers from the CoA to help out, the pandemic has brought them even closer. Dorson explained that the Council on Aging helped to supervise their phone hotline. When a person needed food, they could call in to place an order, and the CoA would help EATS manage that. Despite the fact that the Council on Aging no longer runs the hotline (now food orders are all online), the two organizations maintain their bond. There are many seniors who rely upon Arlington EATS that also work with the CoA and live in senior buildings. Dorson stated that she attends meetings at the Arlington Human Services Network once a month, the senior center being one of the organizations in the network. “We’re always touching base.” 

For now, none of the organizations mentioned are accepting volunteers under the age of 16. Springuel told The Insider that they cannot allow younger volunteers to assist in their food collection, but once the pandemic is over, there will be more opportunities to help. However, Caty stated “There are a lot of ways [to help], we are very active on social media. I think the more people talk about food insecurity, the more people are comfortable with it. […] Just spreading the word to anyone who will listen [will help].” Because Arlington EATS accepts food donations, kids can do a lot without volunteering. Dorson said “Raising money, [donating] food, educating yourselves, those are all great ways to kind of help become part of the solution.”

If you are looking to help, currently, Ottoson Middle School is collaborating with Arlington EATS to help food insecure populations. We are holding a food drive from the 8th to 12th of February. Look on the main page of the Ottoson Insider website, in the parent newsletter, or on the morning announcements for more information!


Looking for Food? Come here:

Donate food to Arlington EATS on Tuesdays from 1:00-4:00, at St. John’s Episcopal Church; 74 Pleasant Street, Arlington MA, 02476.

Donate money to Arlington EATS Here:

Donate money to Food Link Here:

Donate money to the Greater Boston Food Bank Here:!/donation/checkout

Find The Greater Boston Food Bank on Twitter @Gr8BosFoodBank

Find Arlington EATS on Facebook @ArlingtonEATS