Interview with Jaime

Jaime came to DC in 1993 to further his career as a make-up artist. He fell in love with the city due to its diversity, its energy and its many events. The pandemic was devastating for Jaime’s work as social distancing and make-up artistry don’t mix well! Jaime connected with Food For All in July 2020.

Food For All: What was the initial response from FFA?

Jaime: Welcoming! I was at a challenging part of my life. I had no income. I could not go out. Food For All came into my life when I needed their help the most.

Food For All: What was the service from FFA like?

Jaime: After the first food delivery I said to myself, “Jaime, we are cooking tonight!” I did not expect to receive such healthy food, especially all the fresh produce. With that first delivery I felt like a kid opening a Christmas present.

I appreciate how you give me food choices depending on what you have in your pantry at a given time. I had a humble beginning in Texas, with both parents working on farms. We never wasted food, and that principle stays with me. When FFA only delivers food that I like and need, then nothing will go to waste.

Food For All: Now that you are getting back to work again, what will be a takeaway from FFA?

Jaime: Food For All has reminded me what a healthy diet looks like, a diet that is nutritious and tasty. I have rekindled my love for fresh corn, for example. Corn baked with olive oil and salt is divine!

Food For All: Would you like to share any other life principles?

Jaime: Sure! The principle of “Every little bit helps!” A little extra food can provide comfort. A little extra kindness can make someone’s day. The little details are important. Just saying “good morning,” to someone, for example, can change their mood.

Donate to Food For All’s Fall Campaign

Dear Friend,

Like most of us during the past 18 months, Food For All DC had to change. We adapted. We grew. We rose to the occasion to fill the food security gaps made even worse by the pandemic. Our core mission resonated with the need of the times: to safely deliver food to food insecure and homebound DC residents.

FFA works not just because of what we do, but because of how we do it. We do it with a smile. We do it with respect. And we do it with care. Clients even comment on the way our food bags are organized, appreciating the healthy options and the orderly packing.

Today, we are asking you to give generously to our all-volunteer organization.

Yes, we do it with volunteers. Our core team of dedicated volunteers has developed efficient systems to provide community service with minimal overhead. We don’t have a high barrier to entry for recipients or for volunteers, and we don’t have a top-heavy administration. We are nimble and well-organized. Our volunteers say that this efficiency, coupled with the human warmth drives, them to work with FFA consistently.

When you invest in Food For All, you’re providing food for your neighbors and promoting human connection, a need that became even more evident in the pandemic.

It is not just about food. It’s also about letting our neighbors know that they aren’t alone, be they blind clients who request our volunteers to read food labels, elders yearning for conversation, or immunocompromised individuals fearing social contact. This spirit of community infuses every part of what we do, from packing bags to interacting with volunteers and clients.

Fortunately, thanks to you, we weren’t alone, either. Your past contributions helped us dramatically scale up our operations to meet the unprecedented needs of the pandemic. Your continued commitment to this work will help us to create innovative solutions to meet needs as they arise.

Because of our track record, and our determination to keep working through the pandemic, the Capital Area Food Bank selected us as one of only five hubs for food distribution. As a hub, we gathered 16 organizational partners through whom we delivered food in bulk to reach even more DC residents. We were seen as the people to get it done, and we did. We went from serving 140 to 3,700 people weekly.

We haven’t stopped for the past 31 years. And we are asking you to contribute generously today to ensure that this work can continue long into the future.

Continued support and funding will allow us to iterate and to grow to meet the needs of our neighbors and our city. We need to raise $120,000 this year to keep up our current levels of service and plan for the future. Can you help us reach our goal? Please contribute generously this fall, and consider making a recurring donation to help support this work on an ongoing basis. This is a critical moment for FFA: we know we can do more for our community, and with your help, we will.

With thanks,

Peter Sage

Executive Director, FFA

P.S. Your contributions will go directly toward providing critical food and support to your neighbors today and into the future. Visit foodforalldc.org/donate to donate and learn more. Thank you!

Community Connections: Ann, the Forever Volunteer

Ann Ingram comes to Food For All every Thursday to pick up food for Feed The Family, one of our community partners. She is a mere 89 years young, and still engages dynamically in the community. I asked her where the motivation comes from, and she joked, “When your daughter asks you to do something, you do it!”

Ann clarified that she has volunteered her entire life and was even a volunteer coordinator professionally. “I don’t know anyone who has never volunteered,” Ann mused. Ann has a broad definition of volunteering that encompasses all acts of kindness. One day a kind man helped Ann after she fell over in the street. “That is volunteering,” Ann declared. I asked Ann what she would say to someone contemplating volunteering, and she replied, “Try it! I think you will like it.”

Volunteer Spotlight: Cathy and Hank

Cathy and Hank have been volunteering weekly with FFA since May 2020. They recently shared their observations and experiences in this interview.

Food For All: What keeps you motivated to volunteer?

Cathy & Hank: The economic reverberations of the pandemic have created a wide spectrum of needs for so many people. Many families don’t generate enough income to cover all expenses. Moreover, Food For All makes it so easy to volunteer. Everything is well organized, and the food we deliver is healthy.

FFA: What is your approach to volunteering?

C & H: Every citizen deserves to be treated with dignity. The elderly, the disabled, and mothers with babies cannot stand in line at a food pantry. So, we take food to them. This is the dignified way.

It’s dismaying when we hear people blaming others for being poor. Circumstances at birth play a big part in determining people’s destiny. So much of where you go in life depends on where you begin. Those born into adverse conditions need support.

FFA: How do the clients respond?

C & H: The clients are extremely grateful. Some are waiting for the food and are relieved when we show up. If ever we are late, they call to make sure we are on the road.

Some clients look out for each other. One woman called us after a delivery to say she had shared some of the food with a neighbor. She did not want to take advantage of our support by taking more than she needed.

Mid-late October update

Supply & Demand

The beneficiary numbers are still increasing with over 3200 people served last week. We needed four trucks to get food to all the distribution sites.

Through Food Rescue DC, Food for All DC (FFA) is now receiving 6 pallets (240 boxes) a week of shelf stable groceries from the DC Government for at least another month. Along with the CFAP food, FFA is distributing 30 pallets of free food every week to many of our fifteen partners – most of which we deliver straight from the source – bypassing the church entirely!

The number of client calls is rising again, with an average of 50 calls a week since mid-September. Many new clients are hearing about FFA from friends and neighbors.

Driver numbers have been down slightly recently (although we did have enough last Saturday) and as usual the Saturday crew handled the daunting task with their usual professionalism and determination.

Long time volunteers David, Anne and Marcell shoring up Saturday operations

Partners

We got the following report from the staff of Bancroft Elementary School, who receive food from FFA through the coordination of Mount Pleasant Neighbors Helping Neighbors: 

Many of our Bancroft families were able to receive food that otherwise they would not have been able to purchase.  We have helped over 90 Bancroft families along with another 50 Mt. Pleasant families every Friday.  It has also helped us maintain a close trusting relationship with our Bancroft families and the community at large.  The overall impact that Food for All DC has had for the community is powerful and life changing. When the COVID-19 pandemic started, no one knew how long this pandemic was going to last and if there was any government relief in sight or available to the Bancroft community. Many of our families lost their jobs and were struggling to make ends meet. This food distribution helped families get to a place where they can offer food to their children.

This Thursday we welcome back a small team of folks from Industrious, the flexible workspace/office company to help us make up 150 grocery bags.

Last month’s Industrious crew – these guys were great!

Fundraising

We will be launching an new appeal to individuals soon, and are applying for a number of foundation grants. We spent an average of $6000 a week in September (including the purchase of a new two-door commercial refrigerator as we attempt to avoid waste), and need to constantly look for new sources of funding.

Getting that fridge down the stairs and in place was tough! Thanks to Julio, Denis, Cecil and Trevor for their hard work

Other news

We have new long-sleeved t-shirts and masks ordered! Look out for an update on this in the next few weeks.

Best wishes to all!

Early October – guess what? We are still growing!

Supply & Demand

Needless to say, September was Food for All DC’s (FFA’s) busiest month in our history with 78,000 lbs. of food provided to 3798 households (9382 people). 

Farmers to Families Program

FFA is now a recipient of the federal Farmers to Families Box program, which is a mechanism to support farmers who lost customers in the restaurant and hotel sector. (It is also known as CFAP – Coronavirus Farmers Assistance Program)

Last Friday we received 800 box sets on 22 pallets, which included fresh produce, and dairy and meat items. As a result, we were able to provide a wide variety of food to our clients.

The food was delivered to FFA in a huge semi-trailer truck. The only way to transfer some of the pallets to the FFA truck was to commandeer a bus stop in front of UNMC on busy 16th St. during the rush hour. Take a look:

Partners

The resident services coordinator from Parkchester Apartments in Ward 8 contacted us for support for 30 food insecure residents. We will help them with weekly deliveries of CFAP food.

Fundraising

The Mount Pleasant Neighbors Helping Neighbors GoFundMe has now raised $12,171. This will help FFA continue to provide weekly food supplies to 650 families through three distribution points in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood.

Best wishes to all!

Peter

Our news – mid-September 2020

Supply & Demand

Guess what? We again broke the previous record! with 2282 people assisted during the week with 20,500 lbs. of food.

This week, we received an inaugural delivery of 300 20 lb. boxes of fresh produce from Coastal Sunbelt Produce, a vendor for the USDA’s farmers to families program (also known as CFAP – Coronavirus Food Assistance Program). The delivery came straight from Coastal at 8 am, although it was organized by CAFB.

The high quality produce was greatly appreciated by all.  Ms. Gripper, our contact at the Phyllis Wheatley YWCA, called me yesterday to offer special thanks for the boxes we delivered on Friday. Ms. Gripper said, “The ladies’ eyes lit up when they opened the boxes. They were so happy just to see the color and freshness of the produce.”

I was heartened that people still get so excited about fresh produce. It is a sign that the junk food deserts have not had a lasting influence on people’s tastes.

Media Exposure

The “Food Bank Friday” interview with ABC7 news went well, considering it started at 5:30 am! I was happy to have sounded somewhat coherent at such an early hour.

Here is one of the interviews.

Volunteer appreciation

Diana Mata, a social worker at Bruce Monroe Elementary School, who has been referring parents to Food for All DC (FFA) since the beginning of the pandemic, felt moved to offer appreciation for the committed FFA volunteers. She wrote, “Your volunteers are beyond HEROES. Please thank all of them for us and on behalf of our families.”

Volunteer transitions

Mark is leaving the Friday bagging team due to teaching commitments. He has been a stabilizing presence since the beginning of the pandemic, and will be missed. However, he will continue to help on Saturdays.

Lauren is joining FFA as a volunteer executive assistant. Tomorrow she will receive the incoming calls and assign clients to delivery days. Having experienced the efficiency of FFA’s Saturday delivery operations, she felt inspired to help with administrative tasks as well. Welcome, Lauren!

Reza has offered to help with grant applications. He will start with a $5000 application for a Walmart grant. Reza has been doing Friday deliveries to our Spanish-speaking clients for the past four months.

Partners

FFA gained two new partner sites during the week: Anacostia Gardens Apartments and Benning Heights Apartments, both in Ward 7. Given the pressing demands for food in general, FFA will provide each building with 20 bags a month initially.

Saturday at Food for All DC

32 drivers showed up on Saturday. Maybe they heard about Jana’s banana bread!

Fundraising

Ali, a long term volunteer, asked family and friends to donate to FFA to honor her birthday, raising $1700. Thank you for the noble gesture, Ali.

Best wishes to all!