Centre Street Food Pantry

One colleague’s story of developing leadership skills through volunteering

Many of our colleagues go above and beyond to volunteer their time serving on nonprofit boards. Our new Board Stories series highlights their dedication and action.  

Vikram Krishnamachari, a Senior Software Engineer based in Boston, donated food, and volunteered at the Centre Street Food Pantry for almost 10 years before joining their board of directors in the Summer of 2021. His history with them started with a version of couponing.

In 2013, Vikram and a few of his friends would collect coupons from newspapers, the weekly circular, etc., and use them to buy groceries at extremely discounted prices. They would take the groceries to the local food pantry, which was only a short distance from his home. 

I enjoyed bringing my friends to the grocery store and showing them the ropes and making it a social activity. As a team, we were able to get way more food and all of that went straight to the food pantry
Vikram Krishnamachari

Although Vikram eventually paused the couponing, he continued to donate his time at the food pantry. Over the years, Vikram has worn many hats at the pantry such as ordering thousands of pounds of food to managing a team of 30 volunteers. The time he spent with not only the food pantry, but with the community they support, has taught him lessons he couldn’t have learned anywhere else. “My biggest takeaway from volunteering at the food pantry is how easy it is for someone to go from financial stability to becoming food insecure. All it takes is some bad luck (i.e. losing a job or hurting yourself and having to pay hospital bills) for someone to not be able to put food on the table. During my years at the food pantry, I have met shoppers who were students, teachers, engineers, and Ivy-league graduates. It was sometimes tough to see how many people in my community were struggling and how little of a safety net there is.”

A safety net became essential in 2020 when the pandemic hit, and the food pantry had to scale up its operations to meet the increased demand. During this time, Vikram recalls how quickly they moved to transform their operations. To accommodate safety and social distancing protocols, they recruited volunteers to pre-pack grocery bags to distribute outdoors. They also invested in a large storage container and outdoor refrigeration unit that became invaluable in allowing them to continue to distribute fresh produce and dairy.

Thanks to the tremendous work of our executive director, board and staff, and dedicated volunteers, we never closed our doors, even while the entire world was shutting down. As the number of people visiting the pantry doubled and tripled, we never turned anyone away and ordered more food each month to meet the growing demand. Together, we distributed over 750,000 pounds of food in 2021
Vikram Krishnamachari

Last summer, the president of the food pantry suggested Vikram join the board. “I never really considered joining the board, as I had always thought that a board position was only for people with more experience,” says Vikram. Today, Vikram is focused on improving the food pantry’s operations, advancing their technology capabilities, and leading their DEI efforts.

Having watched the food pantry evolve over the years, Vikram is well rooted in Centre Street Food Pantry’s mission to provide families with access to nutritious food in a dignified and inclusive way. Although anticipating what may or may not come next is impossible, Vikram says, “it has been less than a year on the board and I am already thrilled with the work that we are doing and excited to help shape the future of the food pantry.”

I had always thought that a board position was only for people with more experience
Vikram Krishnamachari