City seeks to get ahead of weather with food and fuel summit

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino this week sent out an invitation to neighborhood residents to attend a free program this weekend to help make plans for weathering the coming winter months. City officials say they organized the event as a way to get people preparing for what is likely to be a tough winter in the cost of both food and home heating fuel.

The "Food and Fuel Summit" will convene on Saturday, Sept. 27 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Madison Park High School in Roxbury, and it is designed by the city to inform residents about private and public assistance programs.

"The conference on Saturday is to help make people aware of the problems they face and programs we have in place," Menino said in an interview this week. "I believe that coming into these winter months with the economy the way it is today, people are going to have to make decisions between fuel and putting food on the table."

On the agenda Saturday are activities and workshops designed to "bring together city agencies, local non-profit organizations, and utility companies to raise community awareness about available resources to assist residents," he said. Among the planned attractions are: Personal utility counseling from NSTAR and National Grid, designed to lower monthly electric and heating bills; workshops in financial planning for managing a home budget, and in weatherization techniques designed to lower home heating costs by reducing heat loss; and cooking demonstrations by the Boston Public Health Commission and Chef Kirk of Shaw's Supermarkets, suggesting way to save money while preparing nutritional meals at home.

The Mayor said the programs should be very helpful for seniors and others living on a fixed income.

"First of all they should talk to the senior advocate in City Hall, because they offer a pyramid of programs- fuel assistance, food, and help with mortgage payments," he said. "People might have to cut somewhere, they shouldn't cut the payment of mortgages. I don't want to have people in our city freeze to death because they can't afford to buy fuel."

Joining the city in sponsoring the four hour "summit" are NSTAR, National Grid, Mass Energy Consumer Alliance, Boston Building Materials Co-op, Metropolitan Boston Housing Partnership, Project

Bread, the Greater Boston Food Bank, the Food Project, ABCD, and Shaw's Supermarkets. There will be a fresh produce display from the Farmers Market an Long Island, confidential advice and enrollment for eligible persons into the Food Stamp program. Also, the first 200 attendees will receive free gift bags containing energy efficient light bulbs, a winter weatherization kit, money saving coupons and other information about fuel savings and food economies.

Menino said the need for the event has grown dramatically due to the recent economic bad news coming out of Washington and Wall Street.

"This summit is about coming together during difficult times. The rising price of food and heating oil is an issue that will affect everyone this winter. I'm glad that we've received an outpouring of support from organizations that see the value of extending a helping hand, and I hope that you will join me on Saturday at the Food and Fuel Summit to take advantage of great cost savings opportunities.

"It's much worse now." Menino stated. "In the debate now in Washington, Democrats want to provide help to the struggling American people, and the Republicans want to continue giving golden parachutes to people who are leaving these companies.

"That's the difference between Democrats and Republicans - we think about people, they think about golden handshakes."