There, as the coronavirus pandemic played out, residents looked for ways to help the needy in their neighborhood. A group of volunteers started putting together a community food pantry, salvaging groceries from local stores before they’d be tossed out as waste. A local therapist agreed to host the group’s fridge and freezer in her backyard. The group was serving more than 50 people every Friday.
Then local officials came calling. The Boston Inspectional Services Department warned the volunteers that they were operating an “illegal food pantry” and that they could, if they continued, face $1,000 fines and a year in prison.