from Fig City News:  BY MARGARET ZALESKI ON DECEMBER 13, 2022


For the past two years, the Charles River Regional Chamber has received and distributed state funds to pay for meals made by local restaurants and delivered to local food pantries by Newton Rotary volunteers, in a program called Nourishing Newton. Now, thanks to Senator Cynthia Creem, the program has been funded for a third year in the amount of a $90,000 grant for Nourishing Newton and Wellesley. As a result, more help is on the way — both for struggling local independent restaurants and for people suffering food insecurity and hunger.

Greg Reibman, president of the Charles River Regional Chamber, conceived of the project, solicited state funding, and ran the project with community volunteers and support during some of the worst days of the pandemic. Pleased that the program has been funded again for 2023, Reibman noted, “This is one of our favorite Chamber programs because it addresses two significant needs, those facing food insecurity and our restaurants, which continue to struggle, now due to inflation, supply chain shortages, and increased wages, utility bills, and even borrowing costs.”

This new funding comes at an especially hard time of year for restaurants and the hungry. In addition to the concerns mentioned by Reibman, restaurants have now lost outdoor dining due to the colder weather, and there is concern that their business will decline. And food prices have gone up, adding so many more people to the long and growing line of those food insecure and hungry. Reibman added, “We are grateful to Senator Creem for her continued support of this initiative as well as to our partners and staff at the food pantries and the restaurants who put their hearts into providing nourishing meals for our Newton neighbors.”

In discussing the renewed funding, Senator Creem credited Greg Riebman’s initiative in implementing the program. She was clear about the positive benefits of the funds she had obtained: “The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the restaurant industry was immediate and devastating. At the same time, the economic uncertainty bought on by COVID was increasing food insecurity around the state and in my district. Therefore, I was pleased to team up with Greg Reibman and our local Chambers of Commence to obtain state funding for local restaurants to prepare meals to be delivered to those in need. The idea of addressing both of these critical needs together was viewed as a win-win and in total I have been able to obtain $500,000 in local grant funding in the last three state budgets, with $215,000 directly benefiting Newton restaurants and persons in need. It has been very gratifying to see the success of this public/private partnership and I believe it can serve as a model in addressing needs that my arise.”

Food is delivered from participating restaurants in Newton by Newton Rotary Club volunteers to the Newton Food Pantry, the Center Street Food Pantry, the Arabic Baptist Food Pantry, and other places that serve people who are food insecure. As Sen. Creem pointed out, it’s a win-win: Struggling restaurants get paid to cook the delicious food, and hungry people enjoy the fabulous meals.

Andrew Willinger, president Newton Rotary, remarked on the impact of the program: “Nourishing Newton is such a great example of government responding to a humanitarian and business need with a win-win solution. The timing of it provided the needed funds just as the charitable donations had petered out, and Newton Rotary was so happy to be in a position to help. That we can continue the mission with our partners — the Chamber, the restaurants, and the food pantry — in 2023 is amazing, because it works so well.”

Meal delivery under this new grant will start after the first of the year and continue through early spring. Independent Newton restaurants interested in participating can reach out to Katherine Herer ( The Chamber will also be reaching out to food pantries and local social service agencies to obtain input over the next few weeks before the program starts up for 2023.

Over the three years of its operations, Nourishing Newton and Wellesley have delivered over 12,000 meals from more than 50 restaurants. The Nourishing Newton program was so important to the restaurants and the food insecure that the Rotary decided earlier this year to award Greg Reibman the Paul Harris award, its highest award, given for outstanding contributions to the community. Reibman was honored for, among other achievements, helping to conceive the Nourishing Newton program. The award is given in recognition and “in appreciation of tangible and significant assistance given for the furtherance of better understanding and friendly relations among people of the world.”