The International Institute of New England officially suspended all its in-person services on March 13. Ever since, we have been working tirelessly and creatively to continue to support our immigrant and refugee communities. We had to adapt to these unprecedented circumstances and keep providing the critical employment, case management, and legal immigration services we have been providing for more than 100 years.
In the diverse city of Lowell Massachusetts, our team continues to operate support programs for refugees and immigrants. As COVID-19 spread, and low-wage workers became disproportionately impacted by both the illness itself and the indirect consequence of the drastically slowing economy, IINE has provided direct emergency funding and resources to families at risk of hunger and homelessness. Since March, IINE has been able to provide grocery store gift cards to families most in need. However, single-parent families, families with COVID-19 symptoms, and those with transportation challenges may struggle to get to a grocery store – and the supply of fresh produce has been uneven throughout these uncertain times.
To this equation, we now add Mill City Grows, a partner non-profit with a focus on food access and food justice. Mill City Grows works on increasing community access to healthy food through the development of urban food production and distribution networks. IINE’s new partnership with the organization has made it possible for families to augment their grocery budget with fresh vegetables, provided at no cost each week by Mill City Grows and its community funding partners. Due to the wonderful success of the partnership, Mill City Grows and IINE will expand delivery from 20 to 35 families.
In order to get the produce from the farm to the families’ fridges, IINE has engaged volunteers to collect bags of produce at a Mill City Grows pick-up location, and safely deliver them to the doorsteps of immigrant families throughout the city. The result is nutritious fresh food on the tables of people who otherwise might not be able to find, nor afford, delicious local veggies. The recipients have gotten creative with their recipes and by all accounts are enjoying the valuable supplements to their cupboards.