Blog

Another incredible week….

This past week, Food for All DC (FFA) once again set new records. We received 25,300 pounds of food and served 2206 people in 903 households.

The volume of client and social worker calls dramatically increased from 40 to 68. Maybe the loss of the unemployment bonus is having an effect on people.

Partners

We gained two new partners this week. Food Not Bombs has been working with FFA for several years, and we simply formalized the partnership. We provided 25 grocery bags to Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC) United, a national organization working to raise wages and improve the working conditions of 13 million restaurant workers.

Through Food Rescue DC, we “rescued” three pallets of organic cauliflower from Whole Foods. That translated into 1620 cauliflower being distributed throughout DC. We heard that recipients were sharing cauliflower soup recipes in the Woodner distribution site!

Passion City Church (PPC) is no longer able to provide volunteer drivers for emergency weekday and weekend deliveries. We applaud PCC for supporting over 270 food-insecure households since the beginning of the pandemic. In the early days, when there were more emergency needs, PCC’s support was invaluable. PCC will continue to assist FFA in other ways.

Volunteers

30 drivers came to FFA last Saturday for 110 deliveries. Jana brought blueberry bread for the site coordinators, another baked delight.

Kevin from Mount Pleasant Neighbors Helping Neighbors is now driving the second truck every Friday. Thanks, Kevin!

Fundraising

FFA was granted $41,000 from the Emergency Food and Shelter Program of the Federal Government. This will be extremely helpful as our food budget alone is $15,000 a month.

Hannah, from Mount Pleasant Neighbors Helping Neighbors, started a GoFundMe campaign to support food distribution at the Mount Pleasant sites. The campaign has raised $6000 in six days!

FFA received a $1000 matching grant from Charles Schwab, and contributions from Allied Telecom and the Organization for Day Laborers.

Best wishes to all!

Getting to know our partners #2

Interview by Peter Sage with Mr. Jonathan W. Hutto, Sr. from Empower DC

Jonathan Hutto is a Community Organizer with Empower DC, a community based organization in partnership with Food For All DC to support those struggling with food insecurity. Jonathan joined the Staff of Empower DC in early July of 2018 and has labored as a Human Rights Organizer since his Undergraduate student years at Howard University in the mid to late 1990’s. Over the past nearly 25 years, Jonathan has made substantial contributions to the Struggle for DC Self- Determination, for Police Accountability, for World Peace and for Housing as a Human Right for all Human Beings.

Peter – How do you make a difference through Empower DC?

Jonathan – Empower DC is an advocacy organization that builds power among those most directly impacted by inequality. We work with front-line communities bearing the brunt of crises and trauma. We enter a community to learn, support and potentially to help build local leadership if desired by the people. When the people build organization, they are in a better position to influence and possibly wield power to affect progressive change. 

Through Empower DC, for example, the Ivy City neighborhood has built a solid core of 15-20 people who have formed a permanent organization known as “The Friends of Crummell” which meets on a regular basis to carry out Political Advocacy and Social Support programs for the community 

Peter – What are the core issues?

Jonathan – Housing as a Human Right for all Human Beings is the basis of our advocacy. Gentrification, due to DC being Ground Zero within the United States for the forced Exodus of Indigenous Black Citizens due to rising Housing costs over the last decade, is our major core issue. Sadly and disgracefully there is a national agenda to eliminate public housing which is the most affordable housing currently for the marginalized in DC. As it stands, the DC Housing Authority plans to reposition and/or remove up to 24,000 units of Public Housing which would mean displacement, loss of housing and loss of Tenants Rights. A recent PBS Ken Burns documentary titled “East Lake Meadows” documents the struggle of Public Housing residents in Atlanta, GA (where Public Housing was totally eliminated by 2011) which is a microcosm of the current struggle we’re engaged in. 

Our Organization is deeply engaged in the Right to Return Struggle for displaced Barry Farm residents along with organizing alongside Public Housing residents in Park Morton and Greenleaf Gardens. The Movement for Racial Equity being codified within DC Law is also a work we’ve championed and advocated for.

Peter – How did you become a Community Organizer?

Jonathan – My formative years took place in Southwest Atlanta GA, both of my parents were born and reared in the segregated South. My Mother was primarily responsible for my early political and social education. She taught me about both the historical and enduring impact of racism upon our lives. I felt relatively secure within our all Black communities although the Black Working Class is not a Utopia. However, that feeling was shattered when at the age of nine in early 1987, I witnessed the late Rev. Hosea Williams of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) lead 90 Black demonstrators into all White Forsyth County GA thirty miles outside of my hometown. The purpose of the march was for Integration and celebrating the King Holiday. The 90 demonstrators were met with the chant of “Niggers Go Home.” 

I became an Undergraduate student leader and organizer at Howard University in the mid to late 1990’s advocating for Student Rights while simultaneously supporting the Black Working Class communities adjacent to the university at that time. The late Lawrence Guyot, Chair of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP) during the 1960’s and Civic Leaders within LeDroit Park at that time (there’s a street named for him in that neighborhood today), trained me in the art of street organizing and effective strategies to help people build power no matter where they reside in life. I paid tribute to Guyot upon his passing nearly 8 years ago. 

The life-altering experience for me during this time was the Fireside Chat with Kwame Ture (formerly known as Stokely Carmichael) on February 17th 1998 from Howard’s Andrew Rankin Memorial Chapel. He left us with dictums that are as relevant today if not more than they were back then. One of those dictums is “Once you fight for the people, the people will always fight to protect you.” I paid homage to Kwame and the impact he had upon my life at my 40th Birthday celebration a few years back. 

Peter – What has changed in the COVID era?

Jonathan – COVID-19 has greatly exacerbated the existing challenges our constituency was already battling and struggling through everyday. This crisis has laid bare the sinister nature of Racism and Class Stratification within this society. 

Peter – How do you use the food provided by Food For All DC?

Jonathan – Currently we’re supporting 50 plus families weekly within the Ivy City neighborhood with groceries from Food For All along with fresh produce from our partners Dreaming Out Loud. We’re also supporting 25 plus families weekly in the Greenleaf Gardens Senior Building in SW DC with fresh produce from our partners Owl’s Nest

In order for our people to ultimately thrive and strive, we have to first survive this crisis. Therefore organizationally, in the spirit of what the Black Panther Party for Self Defense did a generation ago, we have pivoted towards Mutual Aid support in this critical hour for our people. 

As the late Kwame Ture taught us in our early youth, “The Struggle is Eternal. Therefore there is no time for us to simply kick back, relax and enjoy life. To think this way is reactionary thinking of the worst order. Simply because the more you Struggle the more you know, the more you know the more you can do and your people are going to need you to do until you die. Therefore if one understands this they prepare themselves for ETERNAL STRUGGLE.”

Jonathan gives Special Thanks to his Executive Director Parisa Norouzi for her vision along with Front-line Empower DC Members Sebrena Rhodes of Ivy City, Berlin Dean of Trinidad and Shana Potter of the Greenleaf Senior Building. He can be reached at jonathan@empowerdc.org

Getting to know our partners #1

Interview by Peter Sage (Food for All DC’s Director) with Brother Mike from The Shrine of the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Washington, DC.

Brother Mike has been helping coordinate the outreach work of The Shrine of the Sacred Heart Catholic Church, one of Food For All DC’s partners in the Mount Pleasant area of Washington DC. He is also a friar with the order of Capuchin Franciscans, joining the order 4 years ago.

Peter – What inspired you to join a religious order?

I am a big family man, so I thought a religious order would be best for me. Proverbs 27:17 states: “Iron sharpens iron; one man sharpens another.” I knew that by living with other brothers I would be challenged by my brothers to grow in holiness. I joined the Capuchin Franciscans, embracing the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. I wanted to embrace a simple life so I could better work with and serve those living in poverty.

Brother Mike – When I was a college student, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. At one point I thought, “God created me, so God knows me better than I know myself, so let me ask God.” I started to pray daily and got the message to become a Catholic priest, which was not my idea of happiness at the time! I had thought about becoming a teacher or a counselor or a social worker. However, as a priest I realized I could be all of those at once.

Peter – How does prayer fit into your life now?

Brother Mike – I am enjoying prayer life now. I am an extrovert and like to be busy and prayer helps find balance. I start and end my day in prayer. I take inspiration from Christ who went out to pray before performing miracles. Christ used prayer to seek guidance from God. God is also calling me to begin with prayer, to seek God’s will before engaging in action.What motivates you to serve others? I have experienced how the Catholic Church cares for people holistically, addressing people’s needs from the spiritual to the worldly. My role this summer has especially been to help people with their physical needs. My work in the world becomes a prayer itself. Therefore, I express prayer both in the prayer space and in the worldly space.

Peter – How do you distribute the food you receive from Food For All?

Brother Mike – Sacred Heart Church serves a number of communities in the Washington area, including the Salvadorian, the Vietnamese, the Haitian and the Brazilian communities. As a result, we have nine masses over the weekend in different languages. We distribute food after eight of the masses to people we have identified as food-insecure. We also provide cooked food for 75 people Monday through Friday, many of whom are homeless.

Peter – Is there anything you would like to add?

Brother Mike – I am impressed by the mentality of many of the food recipients. In the midst of their poverty, they are not greedy, taking whatever they can for themselves. Rather, they are aware of the needs of others and want to make sure the food is properly shared. They are community-minded.

In Brother Mike’s words: This photo was taken at a Catholic Conference in Phoenix. It was in the midst of a tent city. The woman there helping me is homeless and she noticed the pigeon struggling and together we freed it from being all tangled in string. It was a powerful moment for me. What a metaphor, a woman imprisoned in her suffering from homelessness notices a pigeon imprisoned in string. She desired to free the bird from its suffering, as I am sure she desired to be freed from her suffering on the street.

Brau Runners Zoom Benefiting Food for All DC – this Sunday (7/19) 11 AM

Every month, DC Brau does a free 5K run benefiting a different charity.  We used to meet in person but everything has gone virtual since the COVID-19 outbreak.  Run on your own and join us for a virtual meetup on July 19 at 11 am (see Zoom instructions below).

This month, Brau Runners’ charity is Food for All DC.  Kevin and Jess Quinley have volunteered at Food for All DC nearly every Saturday since January 2017, where they deliver food to home-bound residents in the District — many of our clients are elderly or infirm.  Client demand is higher than it has ever been and we could use your monetary and voluntary contributions.

Please join us if you are around, and feel free to invite others who may be interested!

Run 3.2 miles before 11am and then join us for a Happy Hour at 11am to support Food for All D.C.

Join Zoom Meeting
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/87836091778?pwd=dDdkM2VSNVZWTVJoUmtaVkViSzk2QT09
Meeting ID: 878 3609 1778
Password: ElJefe

Mid-July update during this crazy time

Supply & Demand

We had our second busiest week of the pandemic with 666 households and 1367 people served. Again, the high demand in food is being driven by our partners.

Logistics

We continue to pick up a truckload of food every Friday from CAFB in addition to their delivery directly to our pantry. This week we received fresh milk, apples, cucumbers and lettuce.

Clients

Calls have leveled off to around 40 a week.

This week I had a couple of appreciative comments from clients:

  • Ms. Collier, who is blind: “Your volunteers are beautiful people. They told me what is in each can. Thanks for this act of love and kindness.”
  • Ms. Simms: “You don’t forget us on the holidays. The holidays can be sad if you are alone like me. You always bring me a piece of turkey at Thanksgiving. Thank you.”

Partners

FFA added two new partners this week, bringing the total to nine. We provided 100 bags for Sacred Heart Church in Mount Pleasant (through Mount Pleasant Neighbors Helping Neighbors), and 50 bags for distribution to day laborers at Home Depot through American University’s Humanities Truck.

Volunteers

24 drivers came last Saturday for 110 deliveries. Those drivers who wanted more deliveries are now getting their wish fulfilled!

Fundraising

Brian Pepper from UNMC secured two small grants for FFA: $725 from Church Mutual Cares and $500 from the International Order of Foresters. Brian kindly purchased food with this money. Thank you, Brian.

Yoga for All DC

Mariana has been volunteering with Food For All DC (FFA) since the beginning of the pandemic, serving as the intake coordinator for our Spanish speaking clients. To date, she has supported 114 of our clients.

Mariana enjoying feedback during an FFA yoga class!

Mariana is also a trained yoga teacher, and decided to offer her skills to FFA clients to help them relax and renew. Recently our Director Peter Sage interviewed Mariana about her work with Food for All DC.

Peter: How responsive were the Latina clients to yoga?

Mariana: Over the weeks, I have developed great relationships with many clients. It has been easy to connect with them. Many are open to yoga even though they have never practiced.

Peter: What has been the response?

Mariana: I have four mothers and their children. The class is very informal, with the children playing around and the mothers chatting. In one class, a child actually painted his mother’s face while she was in the relaxation pose!

Peter: How have they benefited?

Mariana: They are all new to yoga, so I keep the class simple and informal. They tell me it’s helpful exercise for them – they feel a good soreness in the muscles afterwards! Moreover, they get more relaxed.

Peter: How are you feeling about volunteering with Food For All DC in general?

Mariana: It’s a beautiful opportunity to be of service. It is so easy to connect with the clients and we often end up laughing together. I put them at ease as many of them never had to ask for help before. They are used to supporting their families through hard work. Food For All DC has helped them a lot and they are so grateful.

FFA yoga in action!

Stronger Together

Over the last four weeks, Food For All DC (FFA) has assisted over 5000 food insecure people in the Washington DC area. We have dramatically increased our reach into the community by partnering with a number of grassroots organizations and community health centers, including:

  • Empower DC who give political and organizing power to vulnerable communities to advocate for their rights
  • Faunteroy Community Enrichment Center who offer creative online programs for youth – in which we plan to deliver 10 FFA laptops this week!
  • La Clinica del Pueblo who provide culturally appropriate health services to the Latino community
  • Mt. Pleasant Neighbors Helping Neighbors who connected Food For All DC with Bancroft Elementary School where 65% of the parents are Latino, and facing the crisis of unemployment.
  • Serve Your City who empowers and inspires at risk students with academic, athletic and community programs

Bancroft Elementary.edited (1)

image: unloading FFA grocery boxes at Bancroft Elementary

Food for All DC (FFA) provides food on a weekly basis to help these organizations support people in their radius of influence. These are people that FFA would not reach through its own network.

La Clinica (1)

image: sorting out FFA grocery bags at La Clinica del Pueblo

FFA is enjoying its new role as a hub in addition to delivering food to an average of 140 households a week. It is fulfilling to support the basic needs of individuals and to build solidarity with organizations committed to community enrichment.

Empower DC (1)

image: EmpowerDC making a difference to DC with FFA’s help

Finally we started distributing new t-shirts to our volunteers who also donate. Thanks to Brian Van Wye and Lindsay Clark from Clark and Carle at Compass Real Estate for sponsoring.

Here is the Saturday FFA crew ‘modelling’ this season’s shirt collection…

Motly Crew (10x20)

A brief update from our team of volunteers!

John, our stage/food pantry coordinator, emailed us all last week with a great idea. Respond to team and give a quick update on life since the world changed!

We thought we’d share our responses with everyone – here goes!

John

I’m social distancing by coming in every Wednesday morning and putting the food out on the stage for the upcoming weekend. I fill some bags and take them with me. Kathy emails me a list of deliveries on Friday, and I leave straight from home on Saturday morning. It works out well, but I miss seeing everyone on Saturday mornings. I wonder if we’ll ever get back to a semblance of the ‘good ole days.’

Mark

I have indeed been doing FFA stuff – I’m on an every-other-Friday schedule to help fill the bags with all those groceries that you put on the stage for each weekend’s deliveries. We’ve got a Friday team that’s me plus a couple of other guys. I definitely miss all the old gang, and you’re right, who knows what the future will bring, whether we will ever get back to something like normal again. Summer and the uncertainty of what lies ahead, we’ll see. But at least folks in my life are still feeling healthy, and we’ll hope that continues.

Heather

Yes, still involved with FFA each Saturday and Food Rescue as well. Still working from home though work is looking bleak. Other than that, all is well. I’m healthy and happy and life is good.

Anne

I’m still involved with FFA. Same drill or so every Saturday! I’m doing great, ‘magic’ as I always say. Everyone back home is healthy and safe. I am thankful for that. Been enjoying my ‘staycation’ (the Grand Canyon will have to wait next year!).

Kathy

I’m on the Saturday crew, organizing the driver deliveries. My “song & dance” has become, “do you have a mask, do you have gloves, are you okay going into a high-rise buildings”? And very specific instructions for those clients that are positive. This is the new FFA. As typical, each Saturday is very chaotic and we all “air” high-five each other when we’re done. It always just works out. That is always the theme of FFA!

Jess and Kevin

Kevin and I are well. We are driving to FFA clients on Saturday mornings so we get to say hi to a few folks from our CRV. We’ve been cooking up a storm, watching tons of movies, and reading lots of books. Glad to be healthy!

Carmella & Tate!

Hey friends…I sure do miss the old days of FFA and really miss seeing the peeps on the Friday shift! This was a great idea John… cause you certainly couldn’t get me to go on yet another virtual meet up on my down time! Tate who is now weighing in at 80 lbs has not been happy with me leaving without him the last 3 months…he is dying to get back to work or shall I say making more work for me! Perhaps soon.

Sandor

I have been going to FFA on Saturdays with my son, Marcell, as much as possible. My permanent hotel job (The Willard Hotel) is on pause, but hopefully I will be able to resume normal work and life once all those curious and generous travelers return. Wishful thinking, but I am positive!

Kathryn, Tim, Leo and Anna

It’s beyond lovely to hear all your “voices” in e-form, and heartening to know you’re well and that FFA has adapted to current constraints and demands and continues to do such incredible and important work.

Leo wears his FFA shirt weekly and keeps asking when we can return. We’re all healthy and well. Homeschooling‘s “zooming” along and Leo’s becoming quite the techie now that he has access to a computer for schoolwork daily. Anna, now age 4, talks about all the plans she has for when “the corona birus” is over.

David

On the Saturday morning basement crew with Anne, Molly and Frank. Largely packing bags or hauling boxes for some of our new partners like DC Mutual Aid and EmpowerDC and a Latinx group and a Mt Pleasant group. And bringing bread from Lyon Bakery – which has drastically cut production (and laid off employees) but still supplying us with 100 or more loaves per week.

Stuart

I definitely miss seeing everyone on Saturday mornings. Our family is chugging along just fine. Alisha and I are some of the lucky ones and are still working from home. Our little guy is now four months old and takes up every shred of our free time. I’m looking forward to catching up with you all at FFA and hope everyone stays healthy and safe in the meantime.

Kate (Food Rescue DC)

Work for FRUS continues but is different. More volunteers than ever though. It is heartening to see people stepping up.

Peter (Director)

Normally, I would be traveling at this time to provide technical support to AMURT’s international projects. But the virus changed those plans! Hence, I have been supporting FFA full time with client intake, partner relations, food supply and, now, resource mobilization. I have spoken with hundreds of people these past two months, hearing their (sometimes harrowing) stories and assigning them delivery days. It has given me a broader overview of people’s lives. Gosh! There is so much struggle out there…
It is very gratifying when, as happened last week, a case manager from Miriam’s Kitchen said that FFA is “efficient and prompt.”

Graeme

I’m amazed at what we’ve accomplished. Now a Thanksgiving delivery is NOTHING! we can do that in our sleep! As for me, I’ve been doing some fundraising, answering emails from the new volunteers (our base must be huge now – our email list is over 3000) and going to the church on Thursdays and Fridays to help out. I’ve also been focusing on our new office which is almost done! Missing the Saturday crew! You guys are doing a great job.

Viola

Great to hear from the Fabulous Food For All team. I’m happy to help anytime; have been holding off for now on Saturday deliveries because when I did go, there was a wonderfully long line of volunteers in cars. It’s so gratifying to see.

Brian (Food Not Bombs)

I have seen photos and Instagram press of FFA helping (the FFA-stamped bags!!!) so many grassroots organizations and community activists that I know. I am certain this work has immense value to our community because it has been so we’ll received. Food Not Bombs DC hasn’t missed a single serving this year  handing out clam-shell to go containers of vegan food.

Molly

It’s so nice to meet so many of you who make sure the FFA gears stay turning! I love that I still get to see some of you at 8am on Saturdays (more like 8:15, since Frank & I can never seem to hit 8 on the dot…), and many MANY thanks to the week-day and Friday groups who make this happen! I’ve been doing well. Working from home until September at least, but staying super busy between work and FFA and the pups! Dog parks are finally back in business so the pups should be less grumpy soon. Will report back.

Laptops for All!

In the course of assisting people with food, we have observed that some families do not have laptops to support the (now) online education of their children. Some are able to borrow school computers; others have to use smart phones.

So we decided extend our services to “laptops for all” and gave out the first two computers last week.

Ana’s daughter (see photo) was the first recipient of a laptop from Food For All DC (FFA), and will now be able to complete her studies more conveniently. Before she was using a smart phone.

Ana has worked hard these past seven years to support her family, and never needed to ask for help. Then the virus came, causing her to lose her restaurant job and look for means to pay rent and keep her family fed. Ana is so grateful for the food assistance she has received from FFA For All. She appreciates the “big hearts” of FFA volunteers who want to help others so much. 

Ana gives a big “thank you” to FFA for caring for her and her family in these challenging times.

LAPTOPS

image: eight newly refurbished laptops for distribution. Each laptop takes two hours to prepare

Ana

image: Ana and her son and daughter with her new FFA laptop.

Let’s hear from Danny…

Food For All DC (FFA) keeps breaking its own records. This past week we served almost 700 people through food deliveries – FIVE TIMES our ‘pre-Covid’ volume.

All this service is achieved, each week – every week,  with the hard work of around eighty volunteers. Let’s hear from Danny, a clinical psychologist and radio show host, who shares his experience volunteering with FFA below: 

At the beginning of the pandemic, I saw an elderly person eating a chicken dinner in front of the grocery store where he purchased it. I was saddened that he had to risk catching the virus to come out to get his own food. That unfortunate scene motivated me to look for a volunteer opportunity to take food to vulnerable people.

Thankfully, I found Food For All DC! My first day of volunteering was unsettling as Washington DC was so quiet, and I was no longer in the safety of my own home. However, I soon got used to delivering food. In fact, whenever I volunteer, it improves the quality of the day. 

My son feels the same. He accompanies me each week and commented that delivering food “is one of the more rewarding experiences of the crazy pandemic.”

The food recipients are thankful and upbeat. When they come to the outside door of their buildings to pick up the food, we share a brief moment of human connection from a safe distance. 

It is easy to volunteer at Food For All. The operation is orderly and efficient, so my time is well utilized. I always look forward to volunteering at Food For All DC.

DANNY

image: Danny Griffin, who hosts the show “Walking on the Moon” on Takoma Radio

Listen to Danny’s show on Wednesday nights 8pm!