In just under two days, Food Rescue US – Fairfield County rescued over 40,000 pounds of fresh cucumbers and distributed them throughout Fairfield County and beyond. They say “teamwork makes the dream work” and “many hands make light work” and the Great Cucumber Rescue demonstrated this in action!

Being a Food Rescue US volunteer is always fulfilling but sometimes it can be isolating as we pick up food in our cars from closing stores and shops and drop them off, often with a nice “hello” or smile but not a lot of time for chit chat.

The Great Cucumber Rescue was something different altogether. Over two consecutive days, two groups of eager volunteers were willing to do whatever was needed no matter how physically demanding. We got little moments to gab as we passed each other carrying multiple boxes or as we waited for cars to pull up. We got to know one another. And, we got to share our favorite cucumber recipes. One of Norwalk Public Work employees even shared his Hungarian mother’s favorite cucumber salad recipe with us, although he didn’t give us exact measurements (ha!) and swore us to secrecy! 

The Great Cucumber Rescue

On Monday, July 31st, Food Rescue US – Fairfield County’s Haley, Alexa, and Laney met their volunteers early in the morning at the Norwalk Public Works Department’s lot to greet a mack truck filled with 30 pallets filled with cucumbers. On Tuesday, August 1st, we met at Wade’s Dairy in Bridgeport to distribute the cucumbers. Each palette consisted of 150 boxes of cucumbers filled with approximately 20 inch-long cukes each. That’s just under 100,000 cukes saved!

The Great Cucumber Rescue was only possible through the massive planning and coordination efforts of the Food Rescue US – Fairfield County staff who acted as the point people between The Farmlink Project, The City of Norwalk, the Norwalk Health Department, the Norwalk Department of Public Works, Magna Construction, Wade’s Dairy,the 30+ strong and eager volunteers, and the 70+ receiving social service agencies.This was a great example of the strength of a network, including municipalities, NGO’s, for-profit businesses, family, and friends. Everyone was a necessary piece of the puzzle to make this opportunity a reality. 

The cucumbers began their trek to us when they were rescued by the Farmlink Project, a nonprofit that acts “as the ‘link’ connecting the broken supply chains in the agricultural and food access industries.” In a gargantuan feat, Food Rescue US staff got permission to receive the cucumbers in the Norwalk Public Works warehouse, transfer half of those palettes to Wade Dairy, and then distribute the cucumbers to over 70 organizations total over the two days. [An amazing fact I learned is that Wade’s Dairy has a history of opening their lot to nonprofits to help in situations like this. We’re so lucky to have all of these amazing and selfless organizations in our community!]

Every single box of cukes had to be counted, separated into piles for each nonprofit, and lifted into the cars and trucks that lined up to receive the green veggies. The volunteers and staff did the literal heavy lifting and every single one there jumped at the chance to fill each vehicle.

Food Rescue US – Fairfield County Co-Site Director Haley Schulman commented, “Every volunteer box lifter, case counter, rescuer, cheerleader made an incredible impact on how smooth the distributions went. You all proved that we can successfully take on opportunities like this in the future! We can’t wait to do it again!” 

The importance of food and community

This wonderful experience reminded me how important food is, not just as a nutritional necessity, but also as a beautiful tradition to pass down through the generations. Food acts as a strong bonding connection between family and strangers.

Every single person there, from the Public Works staff to the truck driver, to the Food Rescue FC team, was there to help and that is what they did. Helping others by saving food and giving it to those in need is always a very satisfying experience. But, the Great Cucumber Rescue was really special in its own way – the social camaraderie was the icing on the cucumber cake. Sadly, there were no cucumber cake recipes shared but if you know of one, let us know!

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The Great Cucumber Rescue

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A Food Rescue US volunteer smiles as he loads a box into his car

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A group of volunteers pose with rescued produce at a farmers market