Food & Friends, Meal Delivery
If you aren't already familiar with the nonprofit Food & Friends, please make it a point to acquaint yourself with them right away! This FABULOUS organization not only provides needed services, they execute their services with the upmost of professionalism, dignity, and organization from start to finish. I've never seen anything quite like it.
A Bit of Background: The mission of Food & Friends is "to improve the lives and health of people with HIV/AIDS, cancer and other serious illnesses that limit their ability to provide nourishment for themselves." It was started by a small group of friends in 1988 who wanted to care for their friends dying of AIDS. Not only did they want to provide meals for these friends, they wanted to provide companionship so that no one dying felt alone or isolated. Today, with an extended scope to serve "friends" with cancers and other serious illnesses, Food & Friends delivers over 1.2 MILLION meals a year throughout the DMV. They cater to at least 11 different nutritional needs (GI friendly, diabetic, etc.) weekly, 52 weeks a year. Eligibility for services is entirely health-based and is not based on financial needs. Using more than 10,000 volunteers in the kitchen, office, and on delivery routes, they train and operate like a top-notch Fortune 500 Company. They honor their clients as well as their volunteers with thoughtful rules governing safety, confidentiality, and codes of conduct. I was blown away last month when I attended the mandatory orientation and toured their facility - an oasis of art, beauty, and education - on Riggs Road in Northeast D.C.
Onto my service ... Because I was so enamored with this organization, I didn't want this to be a "one and done" experience. I committed to making meal deliveries once every other week. Though my exact route may change from time-to-time, the goal is to have me deliver to the same clients each time so a friendship may be forged. Today was my first day and I had a great time. First, I had to go to a church in Kensington to pick up my delivery bags. I was so excited to see "AMY Y-M" on 3 huge red insulated bags waiting for me. My route included 5 stops each with detailed notes about each particular delivery (what type of meal they were to receive, how many, if I needed to call before arriving, etc.). The best part about this is that my route is near where I grew up, so I feel like I'm really giving back to MY community. Flooded with my own memories of the area, I went to each house successfully delivering the correct meals to the correct people. (Phew!) Though I didn't meet any of the actual clients, I briefly interacted with some of the caretakers -- wives, daughters, and neighbors. Each family was so polite, appreciative, and kind and I told them how happy I will be to see them later this month. Let's see what happens!!
My Takeaways: With all of the food-based work I am doing, what draws me to this one is that they provide more than just food - they want to provide comfort and a personal human connection. Some clients may not be able to leave the house much and my delivery could be the only time they see someone other than a caretaker. This is a valuable service whether people have financial needs or not. No one should be lonely; especially when they are sick and afraid. This is important.
There was a short time before my dad died that he got Meals on Wheels in Florida. I know that for my dad, who was such a people person, the interaction he had at the time of the delivery was just as important as the meal he received. I'm honored to be able to pay it forward!