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A “Food-ful” Partnership

Since May, 2020, Food for All has partnered with Mount Pleasant Neighbors Helping Neighbors to provide food assistance to struggling residents in this tight-knit DC neighborhood. Begun as a response to the dramatic spike in need during the pandemic, we continue to feed up to 250 families every week, making it clear that this small, community-led effort has become a lifeline for many. A recent survey of beneficiaries showed that about half would not have another option for food assistance.

One site is managed by the Woodner Apartments Tenants Union, a volunteer effort that supports residents in that building as well as three others. The sustained demand for food at this and our other site at Sacred Heart Church suggests that these communities suffered from underlying food insecurity prior to the pandemic. FFA and NHN are committed to helping these neighbors as long as funding lasts.

Interview with Reza, Volunteer Driver

After working as a consultant in Brazil for ten years, Reza decided to return to his roots in the DC area. Then the pandemic hit, and he reached out to Food For All.

Food For All: What volunteer work have you done for FFA?

Reza: Because of my knowledge of Spanish, I was asked to deliver food to the Latinx community. It was great getting to know people, most of whom lost their jobs because of the slowdown in the restaurant industry. The food we provided helped them get through this sudden challenge.

FFA: Why do you volunteer?

Reza: I am a spiritual person, which for me means creating connections with all life and expanding horizons. Food For All was a natural fit as it helped me become more aligned with people I did not know. If we have any hope of changing the world, we need to become familiar with each other. In a small way, therefore, Food For All has helped me contribute towards manifesting the world I want to see.

FFA: Have you faced any challenges?

Reza: It’s not always easy. There are times I’ve had to deal with ill-mannered people when driving along DC streets, when trying to park and when interacting with some clients. I am learning to meet people where they are and remain centered all the time.

FFA: Do you have any final thoughts?

Reza: Volunteering at FFA is enhanced by the camaraderie among the volunteers. It is so uplifting to interact with people motivated by their hearts.

Kathy Johnson: Rising from a challenge

Kathy Johnson holding her painting titled “Out of Africa.” Kathy, an animal lover, uses
National Geographic as an inspiration for animal paintings

Kathy Johnson, a Food For All recipient, is a cancer survivor who helps others get through the ordeal of chemotherapy. During her own chemotherapy Kathy felt trapped. She was losing herself. She knew the only way forward was to fight.

Her fight took different forms. Art provided a great refuge. Kathy was an art instructor at the YMCA many years ago, but stopped painting after getting a government job. During chemotherapy her son bought her some paints and she dived back in. Art was a panacea for the pain.

Another survival strategy was diet. Long before she was diagnosed with cancer, Kathy started eating healthier food, including a lot of fresh fruit and vegetables. That kept her weight down and her body strong, increasing her resilience to the cancer ordeal. She also stopped eating after 5 pm as a weight control measure.
Based on her own experience, Kathy has developed a straightforward philosophy of life: learn from tragedy, heal yourself well, and then help others.

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.