ExtraFood Responds to the Crisis: The Power of Community
July 02, 2021
I grew up in Silicon Valley, and I didn't have much experience with Marin. Just by reputation I thought of it as a mysterious paradise somewhere across the bridge.
But when I left my career in technology and moved up here to begin work as a psychotherapist, I made two discoveries from personal experience.
The first was that Marin indeed is an unbelievably wonderful, beautiful, remarkable place. But the other was this: I was shocked by the enormous number of vulnerable people who live here. In ordinary times -- and times now are far from ordinary -- 1 of every 5 people in Marin worries about where their next meal will come from.
I worked with single moms with young children, moms who were terrified they wouldn't have enough money to give their kids enough food -- and sometimes they didn't. I worked at a Marin school where some kids came to school without breakfast or lunch, and hid their hunger from their teachers and friends. I delivered meals to homebound seniors who told me stories of choosing between food and medication.
And then I learned how much food is wasted -- 35% of all food in this country -- and that food waste is a main cause of the climate crisis: if global food waste were a country, it would rank third in greenhouse gas emissions after the U.S and China.
I couldn't stop thinking about all this -- it just broke my heart. And I felt compelled to do something. Because I stand for justice based on compassion for all: Everyone -- everyone -- in our community should have the food they need.
In this county, the problems of wasted food and hunger are solvable problems. But what would it take to solve them? Community. This community.
And as I reflect on ExtraFood's work during COVID-19, what has been most extraordinary for all of us at ExtraFood? Community. This community. For example:
- Many, many individual and institutional funding partners rising up to help us organize, rescue, and deliver 1,300,000 pounds of food, including 90,000 freshly-made meals from restaurant and caterer partners, since the start of the pandemic, to more than 8,000 vulnerable people;
- ExtraFood volunteers and families writing 1,200 thank-you cards for us to deliver to our grocery store partners, who, along with so many of our food donors, have continued to operate -- and donate -- during this most challenging of times;
- ExtraFood Volunteer of the Year Dennis O., completing 530 deliveries for ExtraFood since COVID hit our community. One of the regular deliveries that Dennis makes to a distribution partner is a large Saturday donation from Trader Joe's, which he does with his wife, Vickie. Together, they drive two large cars filled with an average of 600 pounds of food for our partner to distribute throughout Marin City. One day, during the early stages of the pandemic, Dennis asked our partner, "What else can I do for your community?" Hearing there were many seniors who were homebound, Dennis personally bought 30 restaurant meals that he delivered -- along with a flower donation that he and Vickie found at Trader Joe's -- to the sick and shut-ins throughout Marin City.
That's the power of the Marin community.
Early in the crisis, a kind soul taught me a beautiful South African word: Ubuntu. It means, "I am because we are." I have never felt that interdependence more than I feel it right now. But while there is vulnerability in interdependence, that vulnerability is also strength. It's the strength of this community, working together through our county-wide coalition 365 days a year, to be of service to our most vulnerable neighbors.
I am because we are. With your support, the power of community has made ExtraFood into so much more than I could have possibly imagined. And it has transformed me, because I now know in my bones that if one of us is struggling, we are all struggling, and if one of us is lifted, we are all lifted. It is the power of community in this remarkable place that will bring justice and thriving for all.
Founder and Executive Director, ExtraFood.org