The Food Bank of Delaware has 536 Hunger Relief Partners, and although Epworth United Methodist Church, Rehoboth Beach, is not one of them, members of this congregation volunteer for some Food Bank of Delaware programs. They’ve also established some very successful hunger-relief efforts on their own.
Their Food Rescue Program, for example, is a well-oiled machine that relies on committed volunteers to salvage food that would have gone into the trash. They developed an efficient system to get that food back out into the community before it’s spoiled.
It’s a very hands-on process that also requires knowledge of food safety, a network of partners, plus detailed record keeping.
Gerri Boisjoly heads up a team of volunteers who head out to local restaurants and grocery stores to pick up donations four days a week – Monday through Thursday. Wawa, Panera, Chipotle, and Outback Steakhouse were the first community partners to donate to this mission. Since then other outlets have signed on, including Giant in Millville, Starbucks, Weis, and Chic-fil-A.
In 2018, the team collected 107,806 pounds, Boisjoly said.
Obviously, the work continues after collections are delivered back to the church. Volunteers sort, pack, and deliver. “It’s not just Epworth,” said Boisjoly, a retired dental assistant. “We have about 20 volunteers from Seaside Jewish Community. We are always looking for volunteers.”
Volunteers, who will get on-the-job training, can sign up online through Genius.
So where does the food go once it’s sorted and packed? Some of it stays fairly close to home, such as the Community Resource Center in Rehoboth or Cape Henlopen’s Our Lady of Peace. Some of it goes as far as La Esperanza in Georgetown or Teen Challenge in Seaford, for example. During the summer, this project also serves international students who come to the coastal region to work.
Boisjoly notes that nothing goes to waste. “We recycle everything. Zero waste,” she said. Out-of-date meat is donated to a woman who cooks it for a feral cat community, while produce is donated to feed cows at Rustic Acres Farm.
While volunteers sort produce, picking the freshest for food boxes and saving what’s usable to make soup for the church’s other feeding programs, Boisjoly notes that volunteers often “work” all day.
Other Epworth-based feeding programs include a Good Samaritan on-site emergency food pantry, a Welcome Home program that sends soup to people coming home from the hospital, and a very successful Thanksgiving Dinner that served 800 people a free dinner.
“We serve a lot of the community. We try to keep people fed,” she said.
For more information about food rescue, Boisjoly recommends www.savethefood.com. “Zero waste begins at home,” she said.
Visit www.fbd.org to learn more about the Food Bank of Delaware’s programs and their collaborative efforts to eradicate hunger in Delaware.