Since March 31, when COVID-19 changed everything and Community Food Rescue began offering home delivery of Manna’s Food for Families, volunteer food runners have delivered more than 1,500 packages of fresh produce, canned goods and meat to Manna participants who should not be going out during the pandemic. And through that experience, we’ve learned a lot. We read every comment that food runners provide after their deliveries, which help us update delivery instructions and tweak our process. Just as important, volunteers’ comments give us great insights into what home deliveries have meant to Manna participants who cannot go out. Volunteers have also shared what the experience of delivering food means to them.
Due to COVID-19 safe practices, volunteers are instructed to make “no-contact deliveries”—that is to drop the food at participants’ front doors, ring the bell, and go. Volunteers report that once they return to their car, they feel a great sense of connection and deep appreciation when a participant offers a wave, a bow, or mouths an enthusiastic “thank you.”
We ask volunteers to call or text participants (we offer delivery texts in three languages) the day before delivery and just after food is dropped off so that the food is taken in as soon as possible. In some cases, volunteers and participants have the chance to make a verbal connection and many offer their appreciation by phone.
In her recent E-Newsletter, County Councilwoman Nancy Navarro observed, “There is cause for celebration. Trauma has provided us new opportunities to look at our world differently and to appreciate ourselves and our neighbors more…I have been awed by the outpouring of support and help demonstrated by our residents to each other, especially to those who are vulnerable and need help. In many ways, this pandemic has brought out the best in many in our community.”
Our volunteers show us examples of this every day. Volunteer food runner Deena shared her conversation with a participant, masked and at a safe distance. “Ms. P seemed in great need of a bit of human connection and conversation, spoke of her loneliness, isolation, anxiety and despair. Also told me she shares her Manna food with her neighbors, many of whom are in desperate straits. I was glad to give her a few Manna fliers with information on how others can call for Manna’s Food for Families, and she brightened up and said she would organize her neighbors. I see these food deliveries as an opportunity to look in on our neighbors and let them know they are not alone.”
On another food run, Deena admired a participant’s garden. “So much dignity and pride is reflected in these small, lovingly-tended gardens in neighborhoods like these all over Montgomery County. This is a frequent high point of my food delivery experience.”
Other volunteers share that not only are they happy to be of service, but that being a food runner gives them a real sense of the needs and urgency in our community. Food runners have brought their kids on food runs as a way to teach them what food insecurity means and how to help neighbors.
Food is vital to us all. As we are hearing from the field, Manna’s Food for Families home deliveries show us just how vital our human connections are as well.
CFR volunteer food runners ebb and flow with the seasons. As people return to work and school this fall, we need more volunteers. CFR food runners choose which runs they want; there is no schedule or obligation. To learn more and to sign up, please visit Community Food Rescue’s website and click on DELIVER.