Interview: Cindy, Volunteer and Donor
A short interview with Cindy, a Food For All donor and volunteer
What’s a memorable experience you’ve had with FFA?
There is one client, an elderly woman on crutches recently diagnosed with cancer, who carefully goes through the grocery bags with me, giving back those items she doesn’t need or can’t use so that I can deliver them to someone else in need, all the while telling me about her life. A former client, originally from Ethiopia, was always thinking of giving back, once coming to FFA to share Ethiopian bread and coffee with the staff and volunteers. A third client, a retired beautician, is so friendly and has the most amazing style — one time I complimented her on her shoes, black with gold dots, which matched her black and gold outfit, and she said that she had painted the dots on her shoes with nail polish! Yet another regular client is very lonely, having lost her husband due to COVID, and seems as pleased to see me every two weeks as she is to get the food.
Why is being a FFA donor meaningful for you?
When I donate, I have two questions; “Are my funds really needed?” and “Will the money really go to those in need?” The answer to both those questions for Food for All is an unqualified YES!! The need for food in our community is very high; furthermore, although food does not solve all problems, food insecurity and hunger needs to be fixed first before any other problems can be tackled. As for the second question, Food for All spends very little on overhead, and virtually all funds and donations go directly to those in need.
Why should others also donate to FFA?
The need for the food, and for the food to be delivered, is great; both the monetary donations and volunteering really make a difference.
What does FFA’s tagline “Solidarity Through Food” represent for you?
Food is among the most basic needs of human beings, on the one hand; and on the other hand, food plays such an important role in relationships among people and within a society. The relief many of the clients feel in knowing that they will have enough to eat is palpable, and their joy in receiving turkeys and other holiday food during Thanksgiving week really brought home the true meaning of that holiday.
Food Sharing Stories: Althea Black
Over 45 years ago, in a high school in northeast DC, Ms. Black met a friend for life. They were opposites. Ms. Black was reserved, Di was outgoing. But it was in their differences that they found compatibility. As they grew in life experience they always supported each other by sharing spiritual lessons and advice on how to make life work better.
They also shared food! During their high school friendship, they decided to share one day a year together as best friends. That day became Thanksgiving Day. Every Thanksgiving since (with the exception of the covid years), they and their families have gathered together to honor unshakeable friendship.
Thanksgiving became a symbol of a friendship that never faltered. In fact, even in the covid period, the sharing of food continued. When Ms. Black was rendered homebound by the coronavirus, Di and her husband would driver over to her apartment to leave food at her door.
If we have “friends-security,” then “food-security” will take care of itself. “I love Di,” says Ms. Black. “There is nothing we wouldn’t do for each other.”
Through a diverse collaboration of stakeholders, FFA DC has become a beacon of hope for many of the District’s food insecure residents. Such cooperative action strengthens civil society and helps guarantee the fundamental human right of food security.
FFA’s stakeholders include our volunteers with their heart-felt service, social workers with their referrals, corporate partners with their resources, and you, the donors, with your generosity.
As we head into the Thanksgiving holiday, we’d like to share with you a short story reflecting the collaborative power of food to connect and strengthen communities.
In early September, FFA hosted GEICO’s marketing team for a group volunteer event. One of the team’s members, Maya, also a volunteer driver with FFA, advocated on FFA’s behalf and secured a much needed $20,000 GEICO grant.
Also participating was Yemi, a former client whom FFA had assisted when she was recovering from serious illness. After the GEICO team had bagged and delivered food, we gathered to enjoy conversation over Yemi’s traditional Ethiopian coffee and bread. Yemi mentioned how in Ethiopia serving coffee is a way to bring neighbors together to share stories, seek advice, and deepen community.
On that September afternoon, Yemi’s coffee brought together not only neighbors, but also stakeholders. In discussion we affirmed the importance of joining hands across diversity to work collectively for a better society.
The sharing of food is one of the sweetest expressions of human culture. When we break bread together, we thrive together. Thank you for your contributions that make this happen.
Zhazira: The Kazakh way of sharing food
Zhazira is a research scholar on assignment at George Washington University. The monthly stipend she receives is not enough to meet her family’s expenses in the costly environment of Washington, so she has reached out to Food For All DC for support.
Zhazira is from Kazakhstan, where the sharing of food is a common expression of religion and culture. One way this manifests is through jeti nan shelpek taratu (the sharing of seven pieces of bread), a tradition that predates the conversion of Kazakhstan to Islam in the 10th century. In those early days of shamanism, it was believed that by sharing bread (shelpek) with those in need, one was feeding the souls of the ancestors.
To this day, Kazakh families bake 7 pieces of bread every Friday, the Islamic holiday, and serve them to street people or neighbors. In Islam, the sharing of food is also a virtue, so Kazakh people have blended their religion with their culture to make Friday a day of honoring humanity through food.
Another important food sharing event occurs during the Kazakh new year holiday, called Nauryz (“new day”), that starts on March 21, the day of the spring equinox. During Nauryz, families from a community carry homemade soup (Nauryz kozhe) to a central location. They mix all these soups together and share the common soup with everyone to be taken back home. This custom helps build bridges between rich and poor, thereby reinforcing the sense of community. People also believe it strengthens truthfulness. These two examples capture the community-based nature of Kazakh society.
Every Kazakh community takes care of its people, so no one has to suffer from a lack of food. Food For All does the same, making sure that DC residents have enough food to share with themselves, their families and their neighbors.
Another unique story related to food comes from Kazakh history. The years 1930-1937 were a dark period for the Kazakh people. Stalin artificially created a famine in Kazakh lands, killed the intelligentsia and put their family members in concentration camps. The camp conditions were harsh, with barely enough food given to sustain life. It was only due to a clandestine and unusual food sharing practice that countless lives were saved.
The food in question is a Kazakh national food called kurt, a dry cheese made of fermented milk, which looks like a stone. Kazakhs would throw this cheese over the boundary fence at the camp prisoners. The Soviet soldiers thought the people were throwing stones, and didn’t investigate further. When the guards’ backs were turned, the prisoners ate the “stones” and managed to survive in those horrific conditions. The same scenario happened at the beginning of the 20th century, when the Soviets relocated ethnic and minority groups from their homelands to the Central Asian territories. When these people suffered from a lack of food, Kazakhs would also threw them “kurt” to save their lives. Today, minority groups often recall the Kazakh culture and how Kazakhs saved the lives of their ancestors, even though the Kazakhs were suffering at that time too.
To see a dramatization of this, watch the following video from the 2-minute mark.
Meet Ms. Ike!
Doris Ike grew up in rural Virginia, and spent a lot of her childhood on her uncle’s farm. In addition to tending to the land and the cows, her uncle was a part-time hairdresser. People loved to sit in his chair not only for the haircut, but also for his common-sense wisdom. He always had a story to
Seeing the way her uncle cut hair inspired Ms. Ike, and at that young age
she decided to become a beautician. And that was her destiny. Doris moved
to Washington DC, completed a beautician training and ended up as an
apprentice to Jean Paul, who styled Jacqueline Kennedy’s hair. “I picked up
a lot of skills with Jean Paul,” says Ms. Ike, “especially shampooing skills. I
was so good that everyone wanted me to shampoo their hair.”
All those skills served Ms. Ike well when she opened her own salon on
Benning Road in 1973. The Curly Que Beauty Salon became a social hub for
the community. People would bring their whole families for their hair and
the social banter. Ms. Ike was welcoming to everyone, following her own
teaching that “if you want a friend, be a friend”.
After retirement, Ms. Ike continued to bring joy into people’s lives by
volunteering at the VA hospital as a receptionist. She created quite a fuss as
she always came in well dressed, with an impressive head of hair. “I always
used to tell people that you should look your best to be your best.”
Say hi to Su!
Su moved to DC a year ago from her native Costa Rica.
She loves DC because it is multi-cultural and has many Spanish speakers. She finds the same diversity at FFA. “When a group is diverse,” says Su, “the different perspectives teach us more about life.”
During her eight months volunteering at FFA, Su has enjoyed the horizontal structure. At FFA everyone sees how they can best fit in, be that bagging, flattening boxes or taking inventory. Everyone is open to doing whatever it takes to get the food out the door. This is motivating. “I feel more valued at FFA than in a hierarchical corporate environment,” she says.
Volunteering with FFA has given Su other insights. “Now I know there is more to life that sitting at work in front of a PC,” says Su. “There are many other worlds to explore outside the workplace.” Su also values food more. “Many people don’t have the means to meet their own food needs, so I value everything I put on my plate.” FFA has also inspired Su to watch what she puts in her stomach. “I am learning more about ingredients and how to better read food labels as a discerning consumer.”
August News — Partners in Solidarity
From the Director: Solidarity Partners
A crucial aspect of FFA’s ability to fulfill its mission is its relationship with like-minded partners. Our diverse partners help us with funding, and food access, delivery, and distribution. Just as an individual needs support from others to survive (including that of Mother Earth!), an organization needs bonds of solidarity to succeed.
FFA thanks all those entities that walk with us on the path of service and welcomes two new partners highlighted in this newsletter: DoorDash for food delivery, and GEICO for funding. Together we fight food insecurity!
Distribution Partner: Trabajadores Unidos
FFA has partnered with Trabajadores Unidos de Washington DC (United Workers of Washington DC) since the height of the pandemic, supplying food on a weekly basis to the day laborer community. This partnership exemplifies FFA’s slogan “Solidarity through Food.”
We recently met up with Mario Cristaldo, TU’s executive director. Mario has been in the non-profit sector for 20 years and recently joined TU to further his life’s mission of advocating for those without a strong voice in society. He has already made some great achievements, starting a resource center for day laborers, lobbying the DC Government to get stimulus money for TU members, and securing health insurance available to low-income workers.
FFA is pleased to stand in solidarity with TU and the important community it supports. The day laborers know that if food is ever in short supply at home, they can access the deliveries made by FFA every Friday without condition.
New Delivery Partner: Door Dash
With demand for food increasing due to rising costs and with volunteers returning to the office, FFA has struggled to find enough weekday drivers. Enter Project Dash, DoorDash’s nationwide service project. FFA now has a solid partnership with DoorDash that provides over 50 free household deliveries every week. Thanks to this partnership, we never have to turn people away due to a shortage of volunteer drivers.
FFA is delighted that first Amazon Fresh, and now DoorDash, have recognized our important work of providing food security for our DC neighbors. These solid partnerships give us strength – and legitimacy – as a volunteer run organization.
New Funding Partner: GEICO
GEICO provides its employees the opportunity to highlight organizations for which they volunteer during its annual giving program. This year, Maya, a Saturday volunteer driver, presented FFA to the selections committee and secured a $20,000 donation! The committee appreciated the grassroots and volunteer nature of FFA, as well as the ease with which people can volunteer. Thank you, GEICO and Maya!
We are grateful for our amazing, committed volunteers, and all who continue to support FFA in every way.
Are you an #ffarunner?
🏃♀️🏃🏃♂️Runners: This Sunday, April 24, we get to run 5K with the Brau Runners to benefit Food For All DC and hang out at DC Brau Brewery after, have a beer, and celebrate spring and the start of FFA’s spring campaign! Run starts at the brewery at 11 a.m. Be an #ffarunner
😴 ☕️ Non-runners: Yeah…it’s Sunday morning, and some of us are just not ready for that. But we can greet those overachievers on their successful return to the brewery and enjoy the beer and good company. Bonus, you’ll also get to sleep later: hanging out starts at 11:30, upon the runners’ return. (Non-runners are also welcome to walk the route or even bike it and cheer on the runners.)
What is a Brau Run? It is a free 5K-ish route run/walk starting and ending at DC Brau Brewery that benefits a different non-profit each month. Free t-shirts for first-timers! It’s a casual run, with no registration required. And all participants get a FREE beer after the run! Attendees are encouraged to donate to the non-profit of the month, which is us(!) Food For All DC this month.
Special thanks to the Brau Runners, who come together monthly for running, supporting the DC community, and beer. They designate a different group each month and this is the third time FFA is the beneficiary, thanks to our longtime and steadfast volunteers Jess and Kevin. And thanks to DC Brau Brewing, too, for hosting and supporting good work!
DC Brau Brewery is at 3178 Bladensburg Road NE. Once you turn into the parking lot, go through the arch that says DC Brau and down the hill to the back of the parking lot. For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our First-Ever Annual Report
It is an honor to share Food for All DC’s 2021 Annual Report with you. This report demonstrates the huge impact we collectively have in supporting food insecure residents of Washington, DC. Because of your generous engagement with FFA, we were able to meet the needs of everyone who contacted us in the more challenging months of the pandemic. And we were able to support other partner organizations in their endeavor to soften the blow of the pandemic for their constituents.
Thank you for your solidarity.