'We’ve always had a fridge ... brimming with food': Sudbury brothers fight food insecurity
SUDBURY — Seventeen-year-old Camden Francis has had a change in perspective over the past year.
The Concord Academy senior has become much more community-focused, spending less time thinking about what's best for him but rather what's best for others.
It's an issue that has only gotten worse during the pandemic, and Camden and his brother want to help solve it.
Food insecurity in Massachusetts
Statewide, food insecurity has gone from one in 12 people before the pandemic to one in 10 in 2021, according to the food bank. Throughout the year, it is estimated that food insecurity among children is estimated to have increased 30%.
“It’s a big initiative for us because we’ve always had a fridge and pantry brimming with food,” said Camden, who lives in Sudbury with his family. “A lot of people in upper-middle- and middle-class families don’t really think about giving back as much as we as a community should.”
Creating Beyond The Crisis' mission & partnering with Catholic Charities
The boys' organization, Beyond The Crisis, informs people that food insecurity issues will remain once the pandemic is over and that the organization will still be there to help.
The organization collects donated food and uses grant funding and money donations to be able to buy food at bulk prices at places such as supermarkets and restaurants.
Items are delivered to a local partner, St. Ambrose Catholic Charities of Boston.
Communities served include Worcester, Roxbury, Dorchester, Mattapan, East Boston, Fenway-Kenmore, Hyde Park, Roslindale, Jamaica Plain, South Boston, Brockton, Stoughton, Revere, Chelsea and Winthrop, according to the organization's website.
“Since it’s close to home, it means something special,” said Colton, an eighth-grader at Ephraim Curtis Middle School in Sudbury.
The boys hope to expand their efforts to MetroWest. The organization has given out 2,500 meals since June, Camden said.
Brothers help and support each other
The base of operations is the brothers' family home. It’s a family affair, as their mother helps with the shopping and their grandmother, Elaine Thompson, helps with applications for grant funding. Camden said his father, James, is also an inspiration. He's an executive at a local technology firm while also launching a startup.
“I’m very proud of them,” Jevon Francis said of her two sons. “You always pray that your kids are safe and happy, but you want them to also have morals and be good people. I feel they are moving in the right direction.”
Thompson is equally impressed.
“Sometimes it makes my head hurt all that they are involved in, '' she said. “This is just a piece of the things they are involved in. They are very caring young men.”
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James Francis said the two are the perfect pair.
He admires Camden’s drive, work ethic and determination to accomplish goals, mentioning how his son spends many hours a week working on the nonprofit.
“This is not hyperbole,” he said. “He works 15 to 16 hours a day and sacrifices weekends. ... He should be out more, but he is really passionate about making a change.”
Colton has that “social spark,” James Francis added. He’s creative and knows how to connect with others.
“We’ve got the pragmatist and then we've got the other side of the brain that is highly sociable, people-oriented, jovial, quick-witted and funny,” he said.
Because the brothers are still in school, they have had to balance multiple responsibilities throughout the whole process.
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The beginning was challenging, but they saw each small step as a means to getting the nonprofit started.
“It first was just an idea — just a lightbulb — but going through that process, we were able to get small things done. Then small things turned to larger things and goals turned slowly into achievements,” Camden said.
The two share the weight of the work. Camden runs the website and helps secure new partnerships, while Colton works on social media and marketing.
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“She taught me the reins of how to establish and manage a nonprofit,” he said. “I really took a lot of the advice and skills she taught me and implemented them uniquely.”
He said what set him apart is that the organization is minority-run and that his family is involved.
“Doing something meaningful with my family has really meant a lot to me," he said.