For the second time in two weeks, we are all home for a snow day. Still new to such a snowy climate, any hassle is totally outweighed by the excitement of cancelled school. sledding and snowmen. Mother Nature might is asking us to slow down a bit; who am I to complain? After all, we are cozy at home together with plenty of food in the pantry and firewood for the fireplace.
But I also know that I am lucky. We all have neighbors (whether we see them or not) who are not warm, who do not have a full pantry, and who are alone. I want to spend my few minutes on the Internet today introducing you to Community Plates, one of the groups trying to help address these needs.
A few months ago I came across Community Plates as I was trying to find my way around the Connecticut food scene. Their mantra — In the United States, hunger makes no sense — directly hit on a thought that was only beginning to form in my own mind. Consider that in America we throw away between 1/4 and 1/2 of our food. This surplus food is thrown into landfills or sent into our water system. But we also have a massive number of Americans who don’t have enough food, representing every age and race in this country.
So we have hungry people and extra food. Isn’t this basically a logistical problem? Yes. This is where Community Plates has found their niche.
Community Plates works with an existing network of food banks and soup kitchens that are already serving in-need populations. Community Plates also works with a network of grocery stores, markets, restaurants and schools willing to donate food that would otherwise end up in a dumpster. In order to link the supply and demand sides of the equation, Community Plates relies on people like you and me to pick-up the excess food and drive it to its destination. Food rescue, they call it. If you want to see how much of a difference this makes, check out their cool infographic.
Doing a food run for Community Plates is one of the most straight-forward volunteering opportunities I have come across. A typical food run might involve picking up food from Trader Joe’s in Westport and delivering it to a soup kitchen in Norwalk (less than 6 miles). The people on both ends of the run are grateful and friendly and kind. The impact is immediate — this is fresh food rescued and delivered the same day, and ready to be distributed immediately. Thirty minutes out of your day can help feed 30 of your neighbors.
The commitment is flexible. Try just one, or adopt a run to cover every week. Anything and everything is appreciated. Their website lists all of the available runs. Just sign up and show up. You can even take your kids along for the ride. They think it is really cool.
Community Plates is always in need of more volunteers to make sure food doesn’t go un-rescued. The Fairfield Country chapter, where the group was founded in 2010, is currently on a drive to get 50 new volunteers in the mix to cover the existing runs and to give them the ability to pick up more donor organizations and rescue even more food. Community Plates also operates in Columbus OH, Albuquerque NM and New Orleans LA with plans to expand to other communities soon.
During this storm, the soup kitchens and food pantries of our area will have missed some donations and the people they serve will have missed some meals. Once the roads are clear, I encourage you to pick-up a food run as a way of helping all of our neighbors recover from this storm. Check out their website or follow them on Facebook for more details.