The Complex Dance of Rescuing Food

Pat Drumming, Rainbow CDC tells her story

Sometimes it all comes down to being in the right place at the right time. Pat Drumming, Executive Director of Rainbow Community Development Center, based in Silver Spring, Maryland received a phone call that Coastal Sunbelt had 2-3 pallets of surplus produce that needed immediate pickup. She had one hour. Drumming jumped into her truck (funded by a 2014 Montgomery County Jumpstart grant) to retrieve what turned out to be 11 pallets of fresh produce and dairy.

“We filled the truck to the brim with eight pallets and there was still more food. I told them I could come back or call someone else but they said they could not wait another hour.  They had to leave five pallets of food behind”, Drumming explained sadly.

Loading Rainbow CDC's refrigerated truck at Coastal Sunbelt--6 pallets for donation!
Loading Rainbow CDC’s refrigerated truck at Coastal Sunbelt–8 pallets for donation!

Still, Drumming rescued about 7,000 pounds of apples, bananas, broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, honeydew melons, lemons, zucchini, eggplant, mangoes, lettuce and milk, butter and egg whites estimated at a value of $9,600. Pat recounted, “Several boxes of the zucchini, mangoes, and strawberries had to be composted due to spoilage, but that was a small drop in the bucket for what was recovered.” This much needed healthy food will go to Rainbow’s clients through their food pantry.

Pat Drumming and helper sort through Coastal Sunbelt's produce donation
Pat Drumming and helper sort through Coastal Sunbelt’s produce donation

Why was this produce available for rescue? The Coastal Sunbelt representative told Pat it was because the food bank (he did not specify which one) did not pick up the load. Pat received the initial heads up from their partner, Passion and Compassion that had already filled their 27 ft. truck and made a quick call to Rainbow.

Rainbow CDC receives dairy donation from Coastal Sunbelt.
Rainbow CDC receives dairy donation from Coastal Sunbelt.

After Drumming picked up as much food as the truck could carry, she then had to redistribute all that Rainbow couldn’t use. She started calling her network of hunger relief organizations. “I was able to share with Interfaith Works, Oak Grove AME Zion Church, Eglise DeBaptiste, and Mackey’s Group Home for the Elderly.  Two of the other groups that thought they could come, weren’t able to make it three days in a row.  I didn’t have anyone who could deliver to them.  growingSOUL ended up with about 20 cases of bananas and 10 cases of mangoes to use in their kitchen; the rest they composted”, Pat explained the arduous, hit or miss process of food redistribution. When perishable food is transported, it needs to be moved quickly.

The impetus for creating Community Food Rescue, a coordinated, countywide system is to more efficiently redistribute food as quickly as possible. Jenna Umbriac, Manna Food Center’s Director of Nutrition Programs and a member of the Community Food Rescue Team explains how our planned web-based and mobile application matching platform will help. “In this case, Coastal Sunbelt would use the app. to post food rescue opportunities that exceed the ability of their primary rescue partner, Rainbow, to pick up. Sending out the call through email and texts to all Community Food Rescue participants communicates the overage more quickly in order to divert food to smaller agencies (eg. growingSOUL, Oak Grove).”  The CFR system would also alert and deploy volunteer food runners to help deliver food to organizations without their own transportation. Community Food Rescue will implement this matching platform, used successfully in other US communities in 2015.

Founded in 1994, Rainbow Community Development Center’s mission is to help families become self-sufficient. They offer Emergency Safety Net Services, Food Pantry, Financial Literacy Classes, Job Search and Resume Preparation services, serving 10,000 people annually.

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