Chelsea Eats: Chelsea Food Debit Card Program

Chelsea Eats Update - August 2nd, 2021
The City of Chelsea loaded the Chelsea Eat Debit Card funding today. This is the last month of the program. Approximately 2,000 families have received monthly assistance for food and other basic needs through the Chelsea Eats program. (Please note, the program is currently not accepting new participants.) If you have questions, call 617-466-4209.

If you or a loved one is struggling with hunger, visit to learn more about all the food programs available to Chelsea’s residents.

In September 2020, the City launched “Chelsea Eats” the largest debit card program in the country. Approximately 2,000 households received a debit card with $200 - $400 a month to help buy groceries and baby products in a safe, dignified manner. Cards were replenished monthly over six months and can be used anywhere VISA is accepted. The City conceived this program as a transitional bridge from the City food pantries.

A recent study conducted by Harvard University indicates that the program is working as anticipated. Participants are spending their monthly stipend primarily on food at grocery stores, wholesale clubs, convenience stores, and restaurants. Many of these stores, restaurants, and markets are also in and around Chelsea indicating the program’s potential impact on the local business community. Chelsea Eats has the potential of becoming a national model in providing flexible financial resources for people in need.

Chelsea Eats FAQs

How Do I Activate My Card?
There is nothing you need to do to activate the card. The City has automatically activated the card. Your card is ready to be used.

Where Can I Use My Card?
You can use your card at any stores that accept Visa credit cards.

How Can I Check My Balance?
Cardholders can check their balance on the PEX cardholder website ( mobile app, or by calling the number on the back of their card.

What Can I Buy With My Card?
You can use your card to purchase food, baby and infant food and products, such as infant formula and diapers. 

Does this program affect my immigration status?
Chelsea Eats has no cost for applicants. This is a local program, and the public charge rule does not apply to it.


Food insecurity, a deeply rooted issue, has gravely worsened due to COVID-19 and the economic downtown. The City of Chelsea, in consultation with community-based organizations, has established a program to assist Chelsea residents with access to fresh and culturally appropriate food to combat food insecurity. The program's purpose, entitled Chelsea Eats, is to provide urgently needed resources to purchase food in a safe, dignified manner. Conceived as a transitional bridge from the City food pantries, Chelsea Eats represents a key initiative, which will be undertaken with other vital steps to serve residents in need. 

Because the City received more applications than it can fund, the City held a weighted lottery to select recipients on Thursday, September 17. See the record of the lottery session here. Please see the list of Lottery Results (PDF) to find out if your application has been selected. 

DEADLINE: Applications are now closed.

QUESTIONS?: Call 311 (617-466-4209).