SoSA Delivers Food to Refugees

By Jean Blish Siers *
Refugee carrying food from SoSA
Each Wednesday, rain or shine, blazing 90-degree heat or freezing February cold, a truck with a Society of St. Andrew volunteer behind the wheel makes a 60-mile round trip from a distribution center in Monroe, NC to Refugee Support Service in East Charlotte. Those dedicated drivers do it because they know that no matter what the weather, approximately 60 families will be there for ESL classes, help with medical appointments and insurance forms, and classes on American culture. And they’ll also line up to help unload the truck filled with up to 2,000 pounds of donated produce.

It’s a successful partnership that has worked for more than five years, since March 2010. The refugee populations have changed and grown over the years – now, along with Montagnards from the central Vietnamese Highlands, the center also sees Bhutanese-Nepalis, many of whom are Hindu and persecuted by the Buddhist Bhutanese government, Burmese who have escaped their nation’s military regime and spent time in Thai refugee camps, and a few Africans and Afghans.

Refugee children carrying some of the food from SoSA

Refugee children carrying some of the food from SoSA

Working with a distributor for a local grocery chain, Society of St. Andrew picks up a load of produce each week. Some is graded out because of size or shape. Some is rejected simply because a supplier sent more than the store wanted. All of it is good to eat.

Our vegetables aren’t always an easy fit for the diverse refugee communities, but they are game to try anything. Marci Mroz, the RSS volunteer who oversees the weekly food distribution, says it’s fun to see the folks, some in the country only a couple weeks, try to figure out what they’re getting. Marci researches unfamiliar produce (What to do with chayote? What about rhubarb?) and passes that along to clients. Marci gets a kick out of their openness to new things. “Often they will just take a big old bite out of something to figure out what it is and if it should be eaten raw or if it needs to be cooked.”

The partnership depends on the generosity of our distributor and on the dedication of our SoSA truck drivers. Four drivers take primary responsibility for the distribution, one for each Wednesday of the month. They seldom miss a day, scheduling doctor appointments and even vacations around “their week” when they pick up hundreds of pounds of bok choi, persimmons, chayote, yucca, radishes, and whatever else our wonderful distributor can share. Occasionally they’ll get the all-time favorite donation: ginger!

Man receiving fresh fish.

The joy of receiving fresh fish.

In October, a tilapia farm in West Charlotte donated a ton of live tilapia to SoSA. Rachel Humphries, Director of Refugee Support Services, loaded her truck with coolers on Tuesday night, drove to the “farm” on Wednesday morning, and surprised the refugees with about 500 pounds of still flopping fish!

We all look forward to what food adventures the next five years bring!

*Jean Blish Siers is SoSA’s Charlotte Area Gleaning Coordinator.


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In the event I, or a registered family member, suffers any illness or accident requiring emergency hospitalization, medication, or other medical assistance while participating in a gleaning event, permission is given for any medical treatment which is deemed necessary and reasonable under the circumstances. I fully understand and comprehend that reasonable care will be exercised by the adult staff for this gleaning event to protect the safety of those involved. I understand that the field supervisor’s instructions must be followed at all times, and that I am responsible for any damages caused to fields, farms, or equipment by me/my family members not following these instructions.

Photos, videos, and other images in which I, or a registered family member, appear that are taken during gleanings may be used by the Society of St. Andrew for news coverage, newsletters, reports, displays, and for other print, broadcast, web, or electronic news or promotional purposes.

I do not hold the board, members, or employees of the Society of St. Andrew (SoSA,) or any volunteers liable for injury, bodily harm, accidents, or death of myself/my child during events sponsored by the Society of St. Andrew. Neither will I hold the person(s) who owns and/or operates the property from which we glean, salvage, or to which we deliver food, liable for accidents, injury, or death during the gleanings or other SoSA events.

For a PDF print version of this waiver, click here.

How the Story of the 12 Baskets is Connected to SoSA’s Name

Matthew 14:16-21

But Jesus said to them, “They do not need to go away; you give them something to eat!” They said to Him, “We have here only five loaves and two fish.” And He said, “Bring them here to Me.” Ordering the people to sit down on the grass, He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up toward heaven, He blessed the food, and breaking the loaves He gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds, and they all ate and were satisfied. They picked up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve full baskets. There were about five thousand men who ate, besides women and children.

2 Kings 4:42-44

[…]the man of God […] said, “Give them to the people that they may eat.” His attendant said, “What, will I set this before a hundred men?” But he said, “Give them to the people that they may eat, for thus says the Lord, ‘They shall eat and have some left over.’” So he set it before them, and they ate and had some left over, according to the word of the Lord.

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