On March 26, in an email to local Dedham and Nobles friends, Community Service Coordinator Linda Hurley wrote, “As the days pass it is so hard to even tune in to the news. It truly feels like the worst is yet to come, just surreal. What happened yesterday was the result of the wonderful and important connections that the Nobles community has made with the people who live here.”

Hurley was referring to a volunteer grocery delivery initiative on March 25 coordinated by the Dedham Housing Authority, Dedham Council on Aging, Dedham Youth Commission and Nobles. More than 40 households received deliveries of essential food and supplies, at a time when procurement is especially challenging.

According to the Brookings Institute, “For older people with sufficient resources, the message is clear: stay home, stock up on food and supplies, and avoid group activities. However, these recommendations fail to address the struggle of millions of low-income older adults who lack access to healthy food and adequate nutrition on a daily basis … Millions of them also typically cannot afford to stock up on food or supplies, and if they can, many need transportation assistance to and from grocery stores.” Unsurprisingly, these disparities are more severe for older women and people of color.

Brookings also states, “More than 84% of individuals over age 65 have at least one chronic health condition.” The current pandemic dramatically exacerbates the negative psychological effects of social isolation and a surprising rate of food insecurity among elders. Recognizing this population needed some extra support, Nobles campus families stepped up.

The McHugh family (pictured above: Nobles bookstore manager Amy, community service leader Jake ’20 and sister Molly) took care of the Doggett Circle community. Amy said, “During this difficult time in all of our lives we were happy to help and ease the worry of some of our senior citizens wondering how they were going to be able to retrieve their groceries safely. Delivery was the option! During a time where we sometimes feel helpless, this was something that we could do! Not only did it help the senior citizens, but it helped us just knowing we made a small difference.”

The Gallagher family (father Alex ’90, Maya ’18, Jonah ’22, Kennedy and Shay) added sweet notes and drew pictures to be included in the bags. “As we have navigated these challenging times at home, one thing we have tried to remain focused on is how blessed we are to have a roof over our head and food in our stomachs. We have spoken to our kids over and over again, in times of boredom or frustration, to remember the incredible challenges that so many are facing during this pandemic. Having the chance to lift the spirits of some folks facing those challenges was a gift to our whole family,” said Alex.

Hurley assured, “Everyone stayed socially distant and understood the dangers that were involved with the mission. The senior citizens were very grateful for the groceries, notes and pictures. Let’s hope that we will all see each other in person soon and continue to strengthen our connections.”

The Nobles EXCEL department and community service program are fortunate to have longstanding partnerships with several organizations locally and abroad, of which several are committed to overcoming food insecurity, like Community Servings, Kliptown Youth Program and local food pantries. Among past service efforts are the annual Empty Bowls project in which Nobles students craft ceramic mugs and bowls to raise money for Three Squares New England–Ride for Food, and this past fall’s Middle School Service Day, which taught students about food insecurity prior to a day of service at local farms, food pantries and community centers.

This is the first in a series about community service initiatives by the Nobles community. In the next article, learn how students are helping to cheer their senior friends, “The Golden Dawgs,” through the social isolation of Covid-19.

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