Building Positive Experiences with Food

Published on November 14, 2021
Two men standing with arms crossed, smiling at the camera
Jason Ercolano (left) and Seth Green (right) partner with GBFB to offer fresh, hot food every day to individuals experiencing homelessness at St. Francis House.

“Food is expensive,” Head Chef Seth Green begins. Seth is the man behind the menu at St. Francis House, Boston’s largest day shelter for individuals experiencing homelessness, “which makes the Greater Boston Food Bank so important. It’s an absolute blessing!”

St. Francis House has worked with GBFB as a hunger-relief partner since its inception as a refuge for the homeless in the 1980s.

Seth has been in the business for 40 years, spending the last nine at St. Francis House. Every day, he plans, prepares, and serves, with the help of some volunteers, hot, homemade meals to approximately 600 people experiencing homelessness and poverty who rely on St. Francis House for food every day. Seth estimates he serves around 16,000 meals a month – each complete with a lean protein, a vegetable, a whole grain, and a piece of fruit.

Danielle Sylvester with Neysa Johnson, Guest Engagement Coordinator for St. Francis House. Neysa has been welcoming homeless guests inside the shelter by name for almost 20 years.

Every Monday, Seth “shops” at GBFB, and plans his entire weeks’ worth of meals on Tuesday based on his haul, “We serve breakfast and lunch every day, no questions asked. The people experiencing homelessness who eat here, this may be their only meal of the day, so it must be nutritious, and filling. I do a lot of scratch cooking thanks to the raw ingredients I pick up from the food bank every week – which makes up about 90% of what I use.”

“The delicious food is the carrot we use to dangle to get people in the front door.” Jason Ercolano, Assistant Director of Shelter Services, reinforces the importance of food in helping the houseless: “Our engagement services revolve around mealtimes, it enables us to begin creating positive experiences for our guests, many who suffer from trauma, so they keep coming back, build trust, and access the help they need – whether safe housing, recovery from substances, or just a clean pair of clothes.”

“We wouldn’t be able to do what we do without GBFB,” Jason continues, “We’re saving lives, and food is a critical piece of the puzzle.”

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“My favorite meals are always Thanksgiving and Christmas, they’re the best days to serve. It may take me an entire week to prepare, but so many of these people don’t have families they can go to…. I feel honored to be able to serve good, hot food to people who need it most during the holiday season. We have GBFB to thank for that.” – Seth Green, head chef of St. Francis House, GBFB member agency

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