This story has a happy ending because members of the community came together in service to their neighbors.
By sharing their abundance, this community shared more than they had expected. Being a part of the SoSA network is more than being a farmer, donor, or volunteer. It’s about being a part of a larger network of relationships. When you’re a member of a helping community, you do what you can and give what you have to help those around you.
As the COVID-19 threat grew, quarantines became more strict. These were necessary to slow the spread, but sent ripples throughout the economy. Furloughs and layoffs thrust the lives of millions of Americans into chaos. Before COVID, many families managed to scrape by each month. Now, these same families struggle to pay bills and afford food.
In May 2020, the USDA launched its Farmers to Families (F2F) Food Box program, purchasing food from farmers whose sale contracts had fallen through because of the pandemic. This enabled many farmers to share their abundant food and recover some of their costs. SoSA has been able to handle last-mile distribution of this good food in multiple states, through events we like to call “crop drops”.
This is a story about F2F food box distribution in Florida, where SoSA staff have worked with F2F contractors to arrange weekly distributions over the last several months. In spite of the vast quantities of food distributed, this work just touches the surface of hunger needs in the area.
Every Friday, leaders go through the same routine preparing for a large “crop drop” the next day. They gather supplies, contact volunteers, call farmers, rent trucks and pallet jacks, compile paperwork, contact more volunteers, send out reminders and instructions, contact even more volunteers, and try to rest up.
This cycle unfolded without interruption until one Friday in August. A key farmer revealed their USDA funding ran out and they wouldn’t be able to donate food that week. Then another partner, the local Salvation Army, received half its usual food delivery. Most weeks, more than 300 families line up to receive a box of food. It now appeared there wouldn’t be enough food to feed even 100 families…
It was at this moment the event leaders appreciated their fellow community members the most. They knew they had friends and neighbors who cared about helping others. They knew they had people to call on.
And that’s what they did. Leaders made phone calls and brought their community together. Several generous farmers and community partners showed up and shared in abundance.
One farmer brought 500 boxes of their own fruits and veggies to the event. Despite having no USDA funding, the first farmer showed up and donated more than 400 boxes of food. The dairy partner also increased their donation to 450-gallon jugs of milk.
Each family waiting for food received an abundance because of those unexpected donations. The local food bank also shared assorted produce and shelf-stable items as well. Families arrived expecting to receive a box of food. They left feeling like they’d won a shopping spree for weeks’ worth of groceries!
Farmers, volunteers, donors, and agencies came together as one community. They united in service to their neighbors. As a result, they filled more than 300 car trunks—each with enough groceries to last weeks.
This was more than one large quantity of a single food. This was an assortment of produce, dry goods, meats, frozen foods, and gallons of milk.
There were even boxes left over. Volunteers delivered this “extra food” to a nearby mobile-home neighborhood. They hand-delivered food to peoples’ front doors who would otherwise have missed out!
Community actions, when everyone comes together, are powerful. They will be what brings us through this difficult time. The COVID-19 threat is not predicted to go anywhere anytime soon.
All these months into the pandemic, every week millions of families face the struggle every week to pay bills and afford groceries. There has never been a greater need for every community to come together to take care of its own.
Thanks to you, donors, volunteers, and farmers who are reaching deep to share what you have through SoSA in these difficult days, to see that hungry people in your community—your neighbors—have enough to eat.