Meet the Team: Melissa Spiesman, National Site Director for Community Plates

MelissaHometown/Current City:

Born and raised in Forest Hills, NY and I currently live in Stamford, CT.

What is your role at Community Plates?

As National Site Director, I coordinate and mentor on operations at existing sites, ensuring that each site has the necessary resources to maximize success. I am the liaison with partner sites, and develop relationships with potential partners.

What’s on your desk?

  • Cup of coffee and bottle of water
  • Mechanical pencils and sticky notes
  • to-do list
  • inspirational quotes-happiness is relationships not accomplishments

What do you like to do in your free time?

Exercise (yoga, hiking, cycling). Travel and eating with my family and friends. Relaxing on the couch, either reading or binge watching television.

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

On a trip to India, where I witnessed the poorest residents making some of the best food, with the little that they had access to. I realized we waste more food in this country than those people ate.

Who or what inspires you most?

My mom….my 2 daughters… the woods….the water

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

Change in our everyday habits around food waste and helping others. We need to educate and spread awareness about what it is to be food insecure and recognize that food insecurity exists in all of our communities.

A Q&A with Fairfield County’s New Director, Kate Albrecht

We are excited to welcome Kate Albrecht as the new Fairfield County Site Director for Community Plates. Kate grew up in Washington, D.C. and spent many years there working in politics and as a lawyer. When her family was relocated overseas and she was unable to practice law, she decided to pursue her life-long passion for cooking. She enrolled in culinary school and spent a year immersed in the art and science of food. With a chef’s diploma in hand, she started a small catering company in central London delivering healthy lunches to desk-bound office workers. However, the States ultimately called them home, and Kate’s family relocated to Fairfield County.

“While I was just learning my way around, I started volunteering for Community Plates. I completely fell in love with the Community Plates approach to linking food rescue with hunger, leveraging technology, and involving people from across the County to get it all done,” explained Kate.


 

What is your role at Community Plates?

I was recently named the Fairfield County Site Director. I work with our donors and partner agencies to grow the organization, manage the schedule of food runs and support our incredible team of volunteers. It’s amazing the number of hours that so many volunteers put in every single week to make Community Plates work.

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Kate, during a Thanksgiving weekend food run in Fairfield County.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I love cooking, especially baking bread. A few years ago I worked a 5am shift at a bakery so I could learn to make proper bread, and now I make bread at home once a week. I read a lot, especially non-fiction. I am a bit of a news junkie. And I love exercise. I have been learning to row, which is really hard but also incredibly rewarding.

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

When I learned about what Community Plates was doing — taking advantage of a free resource to get healthy food to those who need it most — I was really motivated to get involved. When you consider how much food is thrown away in our country, it really hits home that hunger in the US, and in Fairfield County, makes no sense.

Who or what inspires you most?

I have a lovely aunt-in-law who is full of wisdom and energy. She said to me once that “There is so much that needs to be done. People need to stop talking so much and just do something.” When I find myself complaining, I think of her and I ask myself “What am I doing about it?” THIS motivates me.

Can you share a memorable moment from one of your food runs?

I love taking my children on food runs. They love seeing the back of a grocery store (so do I, truth told), but they are also amazed by the amount of food that we collect and the number of people we can help feed. They take the work really seriously and have a lot of pride about their involvement.

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

I really want people to focus on the quality of the food that they donate. Most food drives focus on foods with a long shelf life, like pasta and canned soup. But really we should be focusing on the kinds of foods that people want and need, not just the foods that are easy to store. One reason I love Community Plates is that we are rescuing fresh nutritious foods like produce and dairy and getting them directly to where they they are needed. People can obviously help by rescuing food with us, but they can also encourage their local market to donate their surplus, or run a fresh food drive.

Food Runner Profile: Richard & Jane Thompson

Location: Manchester, Connecticut

Partner Organization: Manchester Area Conference of Churches (MACC)

unnamed (3)Richard and Jane Thompson have been volunteering with MACC for the past 12 years. They started volunteering occasionally with their church, South United Methodist in Manchester, but once they heard about MACC’s food rescue program, they knew they had to make it a regular thing.

“We hate seeing food go to waste where there are people in need.” Jane says. “We like being Food Runners because its a really quick, and easy way to help the community and it still allows us to interact with a variety of MACC volunteers and clients.”

The couple has been picking up donations of produce, frozen food, caned goods, prepared meals, and dairy for the past 10 years from Whole Foods Market in Glastonbury CT. “It’s the high point of our week,” says Jane. “We make a whole morning of it; we stop and get our coffee along the way and then head to MACC where we are greeted by the kids from Coventry High School.” Richard and Jane enjoy bringing in all the donations, sorting through the items and helping the kids stock the shelves.

“Food rescue is so much fun because it’s like searching for gold; you never know what great treasures your going to find.” Richard states.

This was reprinted with permissoins from MACC. For more information on MACC or to become a food runner in the Manchester, CT area, visit: http://macc-ct.org/food-rescue/.

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.


 

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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

Partner Spotlight: Bridgeport Rescue Mission

Meet our Community Plates partner agencies. These local organizations receive our rescued food from food runners and deliver them to food insecure families in the cities where we operate.


 

Bridgeport Rescue Mission

Location: Bridgeport, Connecticut

Local Site: Community Plates Fairfield County

About: Bridgeport Rescue Mission was founded in 1993 to address the issues of hunger, homelessness and addiction in coastal Fairfield County. The Mission works to provide of food, shelter, clothing, education, job training and residential discipleship for the urban poor and addicted.

Mission: Bridgeport Rescue Mission fights poverty from the inside out as we embrace the urban poor and addicted with the compassion of Christ, offering hope and healing for a changed life.

Programs: Food Outreach Program, New Life Discipleship Program, Emergency Shelter for Men and Women, Guest House for Women and Children, Clothing

Statistics

  • On any given night, over 1,000 people are homeless on the streets of Bridgeport, Norwalk and Stamford, and there are more than 200 homeless people in Bridgeport’s downtown area.
  • 37.6 percent of children in Bridgeport live below the poverty line.
  • 16.2 percent of families in Bridgeport live below the poverty line.
  • 18.4 percent of individuals in Bridgeport live below the poverty line.

Location

Bridgeport Rescue Mission
1069 Connecticut Avenue, Unit 2B
Bridgeport, Connecticut

Contact

Website: bridgeportrescuemission.org

Email: info@BridgeportRescueMission.org