Operation Frontline Expands to Cambridge


By Susie Davidson



June’s wine and food fundraiser “A Toast and a Taste” opened up a Cambridge leg of Operation Frontline’s national effort to fight hunger and poverty. The event, orchestrated by OFL’s AmeriCorps VISTA External Relations Coordinator Kate Selby and OFL volunteer Pat Kauffman, was held at the Cambridge Boat Club and featured food donated by Cambridge establishments Aspasia, Ducktrap River Fish Farm, EAT, Genghi Sushi, Iggy’s Bread of the World, Legal Sea Foods, Macondo,. The Middle East, Rosie's Bakery, Veggie Planet, and West Side Lounge, along with flowering plants for centerpieces from Brattle Square Florists.


Operation Frontline, with numerous national offices, has worked, since 1984, to reduce hunger and poverty in low-income and elderly populations with food assistance, job training, economic development and advocacy programs as well as the promotion of healthy shopping, cooking and eating habits.


OFL’s “Eating Right” series of once-a-week classes coordinated by OFL’s Kim Sherman, covers basic nutrition, food budgeting and cooking skills. They have recently been co-taught by nutrition professional Jessica Petler and Chef Michael Ehlenfeldt of Hamersley's Bistro. OFL’s Kim Sherman coordinates the classes, which are wholly volunteer staffed. Attendees receive groceries for the demonstrated recipes, and are taken on an instructional grocery shopping trip with $10 gift certificates. Another certificate, along with kitchen items, is given to them as well at the final class.


In OFL’s “Sweets For Strength” Effort, orchestrated by Selby, businesses elect to donate 10 percent of the proceeds from one dessert to the group.


Kauffman learned about Operation Frontline while serving as marketing team leader at the Bread & Circus Whole Foods Market on River Street, where several team members were volunteer OFL chefs. She worked with Chuck Olivieri, Marketing and Community Affairs Representative for the Symphony Bread & Circus, on ways by which she could contribute. It was a natural fit for Kauffman, who had a noble history of involvement in hunger alleviation efforts.


“Just before joining B&C Whole Foods,” she said, “I worked with the communications team at Project Bread on the 1997 Walk for Hunger, where I became more aware of the issue of hunger in Massachusetts. By working with B&C, I was able to organize food donations to local pantries and, in this small way, provide much needed food to area residents who frequented them.”


In 2001, Kauffman volunteered on the Hunger Message Committee for Taste of the Nation and in 2002, she became its chair. “Through this work,” she recalled, “I met Jennifer Shea, the Program Manager for Operation Frontline Massachusetts and Kate, who was her intern.” With Shea and Selby, she worked to help to advance OFL involvement in Cambridge.  


Kauffman’s work at B&C included giving tours to local schools and community groups; through such work she connected with Deborah Fodderington of the West Cambridge Youth Center at 19-1 Cochran Park. She introduced Fodderington to Selby, who organized a schedule of cooking and nutrition classes. Kauffman also referred Selby to directors at the C.E.O.C. Child Care Center at  808-812 Memorial Dr., a day care/after school center located next door to Bread & Circus’ River Street store.


“These are the types of relationships OFL seeks,” said Kauffman. “They offer a perfect context for the nutrition and food preparation services they offer.” Selby also solicited new volunteers with in-store information tables at Bread & Circus.


“I believe that the groundwork established in Cambridge by Kate, myself, and other volunteer and staff members at OFL will serve the Cambridge community well,” said Kauffman. “Once programs are underway through the Cambridge Youth Organization, I am confident that word will spread quickly about the value of this wonderfully educational program. The life skills gained through OFL's efforts are invaluable.”