Meet Miss Joyce of Wilson Food Pantry in Stamford, Connecticut

September is #HungerActionMonth and Community Plates is spreading awareness by highlighting some of our local hunger advocates. Did you know that our volunteers deliver food to more than 25 pantries and kitchens across Fairfield County each week? Wilson Pantry in Stamford is particularly special to us, as you can see from this post written by food runner Sam Mauro after a recent visit.
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missjoyce2 I walked into the basement pantry on Wednesday afternoon and found Miss Joyce sitting in her chair, sorting through some apples and bags of greens. “You guys done good by us this week,” she said, referring to the bountiful produce that some of our food runners dropped by the pantry. She was in a joyful mood despite the oppressive heat.

Have you met Miss Joyce yet? She’s the southern transplant that founded the food pantry at Wilson Church in Stamford, Connecticut. What started out as her retirement project soon turned into a two-day a week commitment for the past 11 years. Her goal for the pantry is simple; to make sure that every one of the 300 families she serves every week has a solid diet. She adds, “You help us in a great way to meet that goal.”
missjoyce1 Wilson Pantry isn’t a fancy operation. Miss Joyce operates out of a church basement with minimal refrigeration or storage space and she hands out food only once per week. She and her volunteers start every Wednesday putting together grocery bags for each family that will come through their doors on Thursday afternoon. It isn’t rare that Community Plates is often the only source of fresh fruits and vegetables for the pantry. The other food banks that donate typically only have bread products, and in the words of Miss Joyce, “You can’t grow strong kids on bread alone.”

Miss Joyce has a soft spot for the children that come through the pantry. She explains that many of the families have upwards of 5 kids and she gets to know every one of them. These families rely on Wilson and the efforts of groups like Community Plates to feed all of those mouths. Often the parents work but just don’t make enough money to pay all of the bills. Miss Joyce always tries to stash away some goodies for her pint-sized patrons, but, she mentions with a heavy heart, at the end of the day, there isn’t enough food to go around for everyone.

missjoyce3Usually when you drop at Wilson Pantry, volunteers are ready to help unload and bring the food right in from your car. But if you have a few extra minutes, go in and introduce yourself to Miss Joyce. She loves thanking volunteers in person and showing them her labor of love. And if you want to go the extra mile, ask Miss Joyce if you can volunteer on a Thursday to help hand out the food and see the impact of your efforts up close.

Food Donor Spotlight: Colgan Farms in Windsor, Connecticut

Meet our Community Plates donors. These organizations, companies, restaurants, farms, and markets are part of our community dedicated to helping eliminate hunger in the U.S. Our donors are the backbone to what we do, and provide the food that volunteer food runners rescue and deliver to our partner agencies.


Colgan Farms Volunteers

Colgan Farms Volunteers

Colgan Farms

Food rescue in action

Food rescue in action

I could not be more pleased that both Mitchell Colgan of Colgan Farms in Windsor CT and Erica Pagliuco of the Coventry Farmers market have decided to work with us. We have been trying to reach out to large farmers and farmers markets for a while now with little success. Finally Erica responded with enthusiasm and is dedicated to the food rescue mission. Since we started working together we have had more fresh produce than ever before. Not only are we able to give it out in the food pantry and use it in meals at our soup kitchen but we were also able to offer items such as cucumbers and tomatoes for our soup kitchen guests to take home with them (we’ve never been able to do that) we not only want to promote healthy meals when they are on MACC premises but promote them making healthy choices at home and through these amazing donations, we are able to do that! We cannot say enough about these two generous individuals, Mitchell and Erica!

– Meaghan Sprague, MACC Charities, Community Plates Hartford

Location: Windsor, Connecticut

Local Site: Community Plates: Hartford

About: Colgan Farm cultivates heirloom produce-no chemicals, no GMOs, only fresh, healthy vegetables for the local community.

Connect: https://www.facebook.com/ColganFarm/

Picking fresh produce at Colgan Farms for our Hartford partners

Picking fresh produce at Colgan Farms for our Hartford partners

Meet the Team: Alison Sherman, Director of Communications

13416976_10209438220063256_4178256232763657843_o-3Hometown/Current City:

London,England/Weston, CT

What is your role at Community Plates?

Director of Communications

What’s on your desk?

My favorite quote, framed:

“I expect to pass through life but once. If therefore, there be any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do to any fellow being, let me do it now, and not defer or neglect it, as I shall not pass this way again.” William Penn

What do you like to do in your free time?

I enjoy the active lifestyle: I cycle, hike, trail run, ski and practice yoga. I love to read, travel, cook (I used to be a pastry chef) and spend time with family and friends.

How/when did you first become inspired around issues of American food insecurity?

A few years ago I was looking for a volunteer opportunity that would allow me a hands on experience. Two different people in my life, who don’t know each other, were food runners for Community Plates and suggested I give it a try. One food run and I was hooked. Like most people, I was shocked at the level of food insecurity in the affluent community of Fairfield County, and a few months after running food, I applied for a job in the office, got it and the rest is history.

Who or what inspires you most?

I continue to be inspired daily, as I have been for the last four years, by my colleagues in the national office. There is no more committed group of individuals, dedicated to ending this senseless problem and making the world a better place. THAT’S inspiring.

If there is one thing you recommend we could do to end hunger our communities, what would it be?

Get involved, in whatever way works for you, but by all means get involved! I believe hunger can be eradicated in this country, as it was in 70’s, through grass roots, local action. We say that Community Plates is the simple solution to ending local hunger, one community at a time. We can all play a part in ending food insecurity in this country.

Meet the Team: Christina Knudsen, Director of Development

CKnudsen

Hometown/Current City:

Darien, CT/Pittsburgh, PA

What is your role at Community Plates?

Director of Development

What’s on your desk?

Several empty coffee cups and about 1,000 post-it notes.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I love to cook and make a mess in the kitchen, and spend time with my husband, daughter, and very spoiled dog. I’m kind of a book nerd and read as much as my 10-month old daughter allows me to.

How/when did you first become inspired around issues of American food insecurity?

Hunger and food insecurity have always been issues that “bothered” me from a young age. I could never reconcile that so many people struggle just to find food with the wealth and overall food resources in this country. Food insecurity just doesn’t make sense in America today.

Who or what inspires you most?

Hermione Granger. Just kidding (sort of). That is a really hard question! I’m inspired by so many things- places I’ve traveled, music, books, friends, my parents, my husband and our faith – it would be tough to pick just one.

If there is one thing you recommend we could do to end hunger our communities, what would it be?

People tend to think about hunger at certain times of the year, like Thanksgiving and Christmas. But hunger is an every day problem. I’d recommend finding opportunities in your community to get engaged on an ongoing basis, whether as a volunteer, an advocate, or a donor – for example, at Community Plates, you can volunteer as a food runner whenever it fits your schedule. By just driving your car, hungry people will have access to healthy, fresh food!

Getting to Know: Community Plates in Albuquerque, New Mexico

 


Facts & Figures


Why do you rescue food for Community Plates?

IMG_4967Before I even saw it on the website, when I heard about Community Plates I joined because it just makes sense! I cringe when I contribute to food waste on a personal level, so to think by becoming a food runner I could have an impact on a macro level was amazing. Especially as a student this is the PERFECT volunteer opportunity because you don’t always know what your week is going to look like but you do often have pockets of free time during the day. Also it is an incredible way to be more intimately connected to your community.
– Julie Gallagher, New Orleans

 


Meet Kristin Fleming, Community Plates Albuquerque Site Director

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I rescue food because nearly half of our working families are low income and cost-burdened. Getting food to families in need is one less (of so many) things for them to worry about, and allows them to begin to shift the focus from simply surviving to thriving.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I like to roam the bosque, ride bikes with friends, and experiment with clay plasters.

What is the biggest challenge in your community?

Sadly, New Mexico ranks highest in child hunger, and current policies are making it harder to get healthy food to hungry kids. There is so much need here, but so much abundance, too. It’s connecting the dots and building community that makes the difference.

How did you first become inspired around issues of food insecurity?

I went to school in Pittsburgh, and it was there that I really noticed some extreme disparities in neighborhood food access. Pittsburgh is also unique in that while it’s quite dense, it’s hilly and divided by rivers creating some interesting geographic barriers to folks without access to transportation. More affluent neighborhoods are brimming with restaurants and groceries, while others are lucky to have a corner store where the only option is processed food. Without a car, or the time to take multiple buses, or the ability to walk up and down the hills to get there, shopping for fresh foods is literally impossible for some people. And that doesn’t even account for the cost of food, which is prohibitive for so many regardless of geography.

If there is one thing we should do to help eradicate food insecurity in our communities, what would it be, and how can we get involved?

Get involved with Community Plates, of course! We’ve made it so easy to plug right in and get to the meaningful work, taking food that would otherwise be wasted to folks that are hungry. It’s a great place to start to reconnect with our relationship to food and community. And from there, who knows? Hopefully wasting less, growing more, and always sharing the abundance.

Read the full profile

 


 

Meet Kristin Fleming, Our New Site Director for Albuquerque, New Mexico

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Kristin Fleming

Hometown/Current City:

Erie, PA >> Albuquerque, NM

What is your role at Community Plates? 

I’m the new site director here in Albuquerque!

What do you like to do in your free time? 

I like to roam the bosque, ride bikes with friends, and experiment with clay plasters.

What is the biggest challenge in your community? 

Sadly, New Mexico ranks highest in child hunger, and current policies are making it harder to get healthy food to hungry kids. There is so much need here, but so much abundance, too. It’s connecting the dots and building community that makes the difference.

How did you first become inspired around issues of food insecurity?

I went to school in Pittsburgh, and it was there that I really noticed some extreme disparities in neighborhood food access. Pittsburgh is also unique in that while it’s quite dense, it’s hilly and divided by rivers creating some interesting geographic barriers to folks without access to transportation. More affluent neighborhoods are brimming with restaurants and groceries, while others are lucky to have a corner store where the only option is processed food. Without a car, or the time to take multiple buses, or the ability to walk up and down the hills to get there, shopping for fresh foods is literally impossible for some people. And that doesn’t even account for the cost of food, which is prohibitive for so many regardless of geography.

Who or what inspires you most?

Oh gosh. So many people and so many things, past and present. Artists, makers, activists. In this particular moment though, I’m thinking of my parents back East, who worked real hard to raise my sister and I, and who now have the chance to work hard for themselves creating businesses that have become neighborhood mainstays. Their work has been all heart and 70+ hour weeks, and although my work keeps taking me away from home, they’ve been nothing but supportive as I carve out a similar path.

If there is one thing we should do to help eradicate food insecurity in our communities, what would it be, and how can we get involved?

Get involved with Community Plates, of course! We’ve made it so easy to plug right in and get to the meaningful work, taking food that would otherwise be wasted to folks that are hungry. It’s a great place to start to reconnect with our relationship to food and community. And from there, who knows? Hopefully wasting less, growing more, and always sharing the abundance.

Getting to Know: Community Plates in Columbus, Ohio


Facts & Figures

  • 1,323,680 meals rescued

  • Year Founded: 2012

  • 64 food runners

  • 74 food donors


What Our Columbus, Ohio Volunteers Have to Say

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Tracy Elzy, Columbus, Ohio Volunteer

Through volunteering with Community Plates, I can be a part of the change that I wish to see in the world in a very real and tangible way.

– Tracy Elzy, Columbus Volunteer Food Runner

I love rescuing food because I know that if my life circumstances had been a little bit different, I could have been the one in need.

Kevin Mullins, Community Plates Executive Director

It’s like I am a vigilante for a lot of hungry people. I take the surplus food and then give give to the needy- one run at a time.

– Joshua Rider, Columbus Volunteer Food Runner


Meet 3 Columbus Food Donors

Hot Chicken Takeover

Hot Chicken Takeover

Hot Chicken Takeover

In addition to serving perfectly fried chicken rubbed with a cayenne-infused paste, the mission of the company is a beacon of social impact. According to their mission: “It’s about our people. Beyond an amazing community of customers, HCT provides supportive jobs to men and women who need a second chance at work. Be it homelessness, previous incarceration, or another barrier to employment, HCT employees are wildly ambitious and have set their sights on what’s next.” They even mentioned us in their 2015 year in review!

Whole Foods: Easton, Ohio

We’re so lucky to have relationships with Whole Foods across the country, and this fantastic new Easton location is no exception.

Worthington Farmers Market

The Worthington Farmers Market is Central Ohio’s largest farmers market, boasting more than 70 vendors from Columbus and the surrounding areas. The market includes locally grown seasonal fruits and vegetables, locally produced cheeses, jams, jellies, honey and maple syrup, high quality cuts of meat from carefully raised farm animals, eggs from pastured chickens, flowers, herbs, plants, homemade soaps, and foodstuffs. The market is a year-round tradition that is held in the heart of Worthington.


Meet Susan Keiser Smith, Columbus Site Director

Susan Keiser-Smith

Susan Keiser-Smith

Hometown/Current City:
Troy, OH

What do you like to do in your free time?
Travel, play soccer, spend time with family, kayak, hike

How did you first become inspired around issues of food insecurity?
Through Community Plates. One of my neighbors started CP in Columbus. I did a few runs and the rest is history.

Who or what inspires you most?
The strong women in my family. I really miss my grandmas, one had dementia and was an inspiration even in her darkest days. The other lived to be 103 and lived at home until the last few months of her life. My mom and sister are my rocks.

If there is one thing we should do to help eradicate food insecurity in our communities, what would it be, and how can we get involved?
Finding new runners. Once someone signs up for their first run and realizes how easy and rewarding it is, they are hooked.


 

A Q&A with Columbus, Ohio Site Director, Susan Keiser-Smith

Meet one of our longest-serving site directors, Susan Keiser-Smith. She has been at the center of our food rescue efforts in Columbus. An active volunteer in her community, Susan is passionate about food rescue and children in need.

 


Hometown/Current City:susan
Troy, OH

What is your role at Community Plates?
Columbus Site Director

What do you like to do in your free time?
Travel, play soccer, spend time with family, kayak, hike

How did you first become inspired around issues of food insecurity?
Through Community Plates. One of my neighbors started CP in Columbus. I did a few runs and the rest is history.

Who or what inspires you most?
The strong women in my family. I really miss my grandmas, one had dementia and was an inspiration even in her darkest days. The other lived to be 103 and lived at home until the last few months of her life. My mom and sister are my rocks.

If there is one thing we should do to help eradicate food insecurity in our communities, what would it be, and how can we get involved?
Finding new runners. Once someone signs up for their first run and realizes how easy and rewarding it is, they are hooked.

Food Donor Spotlight: Mrs Greens New Canaan & Fairfield

Meet our Community Plates donors. These organizations, companies, restaurants and markets are part of our community dedicated to helping eliminate hunger in the U.S. Our donors are the backbone to what we do, and provide the food that volunteer food runners rescue and deliver to our partner agencies.


 

IMG_5757-1024x768

photo c/o lifesabowl.com

Mrs Greens New Canaan & Fairfield

Mrs Greens has been an active donor to Community Plates Fairfield County for two years, providing fresh, organic produce, dairy, bakery items, and much more each week.

– Tom Hauser, Fairfield Site Director

Location: New Canaan and Fairfield, Connecticut

Local Site: Community Plates Fairfield County

About: Mrs. Green’s Natural Market is a neighborhood store, passionately committed to clean, natural foods. Dedicated to health and sustainability. Devoted to  customers who care deeply about the foods they eat.

Locations: Locations across the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Mid-West and Canada

Websitehttp://mrsgreens.com

Food Donor Spotlight: Liberty’s Kitchen in New Orleans

Meet our Community Plates donors. These organizations, companies, restaurants and markets are part of our community dedicated to helping eliminate hunger in the U.S. Our donors are the backbone to what we do, and provide the food that volunteer food runners rescue and deliver to our partner agencies.


Liberty’s Kitchen

Liberty’s Kitchen is a new food donor from our New Orleans site, beginning their donations in early July. Their weekly donations are delivered to the Covenant House each Tuesday. We are very pleased to have this new partner join our food rescue community in New Orleans. – Lauren Rudzis,  New Orleans Site Director

Location: New Orleans, Louisiana

Local Site: Community Plates, New Orleans

Mission: Liberty’s Kitchen is a social enterprise dedicated to transforming the lives of vulnerable New Orleans youth. We provide a path to bright and healthy futures through employability and life skills training and by providing freshly prepared, nutritious meals to school children.

About: Liberty Kitchen’s participants are New Orleans youth, ages 16-24, who are out of work and out of school. The risk factors for these young people include higher poverty rates, low educational attainment, a lack of work skills and experience, and mental health and substance abuse issues. New Orleans youth live in an especially difficult environment, but despite their many challenges, they are hopeful and seeking success. These are exactly the young people that the Liberty’s Kitchen Youth Development Program is poised to help through our foodservice-based training and work-readiness programs. Their School Nutrition Program, currently provides about 4,000 nourishing, made-from-scratch meals daily to New Orleans low-income to extremely low-income public school children. In fact, 98% of the children we serve qualify for a free or reduced lunch. Through our School Nutrition Program we are changing eating habits and teaching proper nutrition to New Orleans school children.

“Since its inception, I have been captivated by the growth, progress and impact of Liberty’s Kitchen – and the sheer determination of its founder Janet Davas to build a strong organization that is dedicated to its community and especially to the youth it serves. There are very few tangible paths for New Orleans youth to break the cycles of poverty and joblessness. Liberty’s Kitchen not only provides a tangible path, but “doubles down” on its mission impact by providing transformational training and nutritious meals to children in need. As a model member of Catalyst Kitchens, Liberty’s Kitchen serves as a premier example of the impact food-service social enterprise is having on communities across the country.” – David H. Carleton, VP FareStart / Director Catalyst Kitchens

Programs

Website: libertyskitchen.org

Email: info@libertyskitchen.org

Follow: Liberty’s Kitchen on Facebook • Liberty’s Kitchen on Twitter