Manna Food Center, Montgomery County’s largest food bank and distribution center, serves almost 60% of the 70,000 Montgomery County residents who are food insecure. Who are the other unsung heroes in our community that receive and redistribute recovered food to those who experience hunger? Last summer I visited many of the growing network of Community Food Rescue (CFR) food assistance organizations to see their operations, learn about the people they serve, and help them get the most out of CFR’s resources. I continue sharing these unsung heroes in Part 2.
Volunteer Meg Baker tells me that St. Paul’s hunger ministry provides 80 families with groceries and a hot meal once a month. Reverend Ella Redfield of New Creation Church shares that the church provides 900 people with a full array of groceries twice a month and a special Thanksgiving turkey distribution. During my visits, Meg and Rev. Ella were thrilled to receive CFR’s Food Safety from Pantry to Plate brochure to give to their clients. The easy to read pamphlet explains date labels so that clients know when food, especially items with past package dates, is safe to eat. Most food assistance organizations serve multi-lingual populations so they were especially pleased that the brochures are available on CFR’s website in six languages.
St. Peter’s Just Lunch in Poolesville offers a freshly prepared lunch to nearby high school students. Rev. Ann Ritonia told me about one student. “His parents were both out of work for four months and he was able to eat lunch with his friends during that time because he could go off campus with them and not have to purchase a lunch. The Just Lunch program and the food and bottled water that the CFR provided allowed for this young man to retain a measure of dignity and get the food he needed.” Rev. Ann is thrilled to receive fresh produce through CFR local farm donors. “We just received 125 lbs. of fresh tomatoes from Plow and Stars Farm that we will be canning and using for our Student and Senior lunch program. Because of this generous donation we will not have to purchase tomato sauce for our meatball subs and spaghetti lunches. The tomatoes are beautiful and we are grateful!”
Liberty Grove UMC serves a soup, bread, and salad dinner to 80-100 people twice a month. The church also provides a food pantry stocked with recovered food. All the food is rescued or donated—there is no church budget for food. “The dinners attract people who are elderly, homeless, new immigrants, families, and those who are lonely and seek companionship,” church volunteer Susan Burgess shares with me. She explains, “We never know what food will come in, so our lead cook is wonderfully creative with soup recipes.”
Some of CFR network’s recipient agencies provide emergency shelter for people who are homeless, and rely on prepared food coming from congregations, individuals, and CFR donations from restaurants and caterers. The Bethesda Jazz and Blues Supper Club is all set to donate any unserved food from the Bethesda Green Gala next month. The donation has already been scheduled using CFR’s matching tool, matched to the Montgomery Coalition for the Homeless, serving 140 at their men’s shelter.
Rainbow Place recently joined CFR to receive food for their women’s shelter, which is only open between November 1st and March 1st. They don’t have cooking facilities but will appreciate receiving refrigerated food, such as dairy products, and prepared food that they can warm up and serve to their 28 clients.
Through generous support of Montgomery County and private funding, Community Food Rescue has distributed $60,000 in capacity-building grants this year to these and other organizations to buy freezers, refrigerators, containers, and storage facilities to serve their clients.
A CFR mini-grant helped Rainbow Community Development Center, one of the county’s larger non-profit service providers, purchase a truck in 2015 so that they can pick up pallets of rescued food. Pat Drumming not only distributes groceries to 190 people daily, but also shares food with other agencies so that nothing goes to waste. Most agencies that don’t have transportation rely on CFR’s volunteer food runners who bring rescued food to them.
Providing rescued food to these unsung heroes, enables them to serve those who are most vulnerable in our community. If you know of a non-profit food assistance organization that can use rescued food to stretch their budget, refer them to the CFR network. They can also be added to the Montgomery County Food Council’s Food Assistance Directory, so that people in need of food assistance can find them.