Food has the power to heal. That has never been more apparent than in this past year when we experienced the isolating effects of a world health crisis. We have had to find creative ways to get the right food to people so that they can maintain good health and well-being and know that they are seen and not forgotten.
The crises of COVID-19 and the 2020 uprising revealed disparities and inequities in the food system—including in the hunger relief network. With the support of donors, The Food Group tuned in even more closely to what was happening in the community and brought collaborative and creative solutions to local hunger.
New partners with shared values
“The intensity of the events of 2020 triggered a mutual aid movement in emergency hunger relief,” says Maria Bonilla, Agency Relations Specialist. We connected with a new group of hunger relief partners that shared our values of access, equity, and dignity in providing food and caring for each other. Maria explains that many grass-roots associations started emergency food programs and broke down barriers that people were experiencing in accessing food. For example, they offered food sanctuaries or “free stores” where no application forms were required.
Your contributions provided groceries and meals to more than forty new partner organizations that lacked fundraising capacity and did not have a budget to purchase food for their visitors. We worked with a network of 265 food shelves and agencies in 2020, and those partnerships are continuing into 2021 thanks to donor support.
Equally important was the delivery of both culturally connected and locally sourced foods, including masa flour, fufu flour, wild rice, fresh vegetables, fruits and herbs, eggs, meat and poultry, and much more. “Sourcing and purchasing local foods creates lasting relationships, builds resilience, and boosts the local farm economy,” says Danielle Piraino, program coordinator.
Creative solutions in challenging times
Another example of the win-win of collaboration was providing labor and transportation to harvest and rescue food from the Dream of Wild Health farm and deliver it directly to the Gatherings Café where daily meals are prepared and delivered to Native American elders using culturally connected foods. Donors fueled this essential nutrition success story with their gifts.
Maria and Danielle agree that they are beginning to see changes in the food system and in emergency hunger relief that make them even more hopeful about future. Maria says, “We have stayed centered on our values and taken collective responsibility to care for each other and create a stronger, healthier community.”