New Open Table Executive Director Alexandra DePalo tackles food insecurity in MetroWest

March 23, 2023

By Joan Geoghegan

This past October, Alexandra DePalo joined Open Table as executive director. The 33-year-old Concord and Maynard-based non-profit works to end hunger in the local community by providing healthy food in ways that respect the dignity and diversity of those served.

Alex came to Open Table from Framingham where, as Director of Public Health, she provided personnel and budget management for the department, worked with a wide variety of community partners and coordinated many of the City’s COVID-19 responses including emergency food programs, free testing sites and vaccine clinics.

“It’s always been clear to me that in order to live happy and healthy lives, people need access to affordable, nutritious food,” said Alex. “Unfortunately, this is out of reach for many members of our community. Open Table works hard to address this issue and has earned a great reputation. I’m thrilled to be a part of this organization.”

Food insecurity continues to be a major issue both locally and nationally. According to the Greater Boston Food Bank report, “Opportunities to Improve Food Equity & Access in Massachusetts,” an estimated 32 percent – or 1.8 million adults in the state experienced food insecurity in 2021.

“One of the greatest opportunities for Open Table is to identify food-insecure individuals and families that we haven’t yet been able to reach and to serve them in ways that meet their needs,” said Alex.

To address these issues, Open Table has expanded its mobile programs, which get food to easily accessible places. Plans also are underway to complete the build out of the new Open Table annex building in Maynard, which will help Open Table to better serve clients and guests. Finally, Open Table is increasing the variety of food it offers so that its clients are getting food that they are comfortable with, food that they want to cook and that meets their preferences.

Alongside these opportunities for Open Table, there are also challenges.

“External forces like inflation, the long-term impacts of Covid and changes to government subsidies all affect Open Table,” says Alex. “We are seeing significant increases in the demand for our food, and the cost of food is only getting higher.”

In a recent comparison of July – December 2021 compared with the same months in 2022, Open Table saw an increase of over 40% in the amount of groceries and meals distributed to their clients. During that time twice as many households were serviced and three times as many individuals. The organization does not expect demand to slow down.

Open Table recognizes that lack of transportation, lack of information, shame and stigma, along with limited access to food pantry locations and hours are all obstacles. Going forward, the organization looks to grow its partnership-based model and build relationships with trusted organizations who can help identify individuals and families facing food insecurity. The partnership-based programming, focused on increasing information, access and choice will help Open Table to find and serve “the invisible two-thirds” of food insecure households.