Food rescue operations are vital during a pandemic


Pennsylvania woman among those trying to help

October 20, 2020

Lori Flick of Columbia Presbyterian Church’s Hands Across the Street ministry helps families in south-central Pennsylvania by rescuing food that might otherwise be wasted. (Contributed photo)

Yearning to break free from a life hindered by addiction, Lori Flick walked into Columbia Presbyterian Church in south-central Pennsylvania almost seven years ago and found a place of refuge.

“I think a lot of people were like ‘Who is this girl?’” she said. “I was skinny as heck. I looked like I was ready to rob the place,” but “I just got to know everyone. They gave me hope. They gave me Jesus. They gave me my self-worth when I didn’t have it.”

Today, she’s a driving force behind the church’s food ministry. Hands Across the Street fights hunger in Lancaster County and other nearby areas through various means, including food drop-offs and food giveaways.

“I’ve been told I create flash mobs,” said Flick, who often uses social media to spread the word about the giveaways. “It can literally be a half hour before I do it. … I can post it and people will be there.”

Her role as coordinator of outreach services includes being the chief food rescuer, collecting food through a variety of channels that might otherwise go to waste.

For example, “I ask farmers, ‘Can you glean your fields?’ and some of them do,” she said. “A few weeks ago, we gave out 8,000 pounds of asparagus.”

Such efforts are playing a vital role these days in various parts of the country, according to the Presbyterian Hunger Program (PHP). The coronavirus pandemic has caused economic hardships on a national level as well as within households and brought attention to the issue of food insecurity.

“The Hands Across the Street ministry gives us hope in these trying times,” said Andrew Kang Bartlett, PHP’s Associate for National Hunger Concerns. “The need for food is so clear and, like Presbyterians have been doing for centuries, a group of caring souls come together to just make it happen.”

Across the country in Colorado, Denver Food Rescue fights food insecurity by collecting fresh produce that people get access to through No Cost Grocery Programs that are similar to farmers markets.

“We thrive off of the relationships that we have with wholesale distributors and grocery stores here in Denver,” said Christine Alford, executive director. “It’s because of them that we’re able to rescue their highly perishable food items,” which get distributed out into the community within two hours.

The food is delivered, sometimes via bicycle, to the No Cost Grocery Programs that are run by community members. Eleven of 21 sites are operating during the pandemic and are seeing increased demand.

“A lot of times what I’m hearing is people have the bulk of their meal, but they don’t have healthy food to go with it,” such as fresh produce, Alford said. “It’s our right to have healthy food access.”

Denver Food Rescue, which served about 57,000 participants last year and about 17,000 in the past few weeks, recently received a grant from the Presbyterian Hunger Program to help with expenses, such as outfitting the staff with personal protective equipment.

This organization “has all the ingredients of an effective group,” Bartlett said. “On one hand, you have idealism about food being a basic right for all combined with a commitment to serving people hurt by an unjust economic system. On the other hand, you have savvy activists who collaborate with partners around the city who can also crunch the numbers to show their impact serving low-income communities.”

Back in Pennsylvania at Hands Across the Street, Flick is one of a half-dozen people keeping the food ministry going during the pandemic, with the help of the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank and others.

Several times a week, Flick visits stores to say, “Hey, do you have any donations?” she said. “We get random stuff and we’ll just bag it.”

That’s just one aspect of the Hands Across the Street operation. There also are food deliveries to seniors and others in need, Flick said.

Darla Carter, Communications Associate, Presbyterian Mission Agency

Today’s Focus:  Food Rescue Operations

Let us join in prayer for: 

PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Robin Roach, Board of Pensions
Eden Roberts, Presbyterian Mission Agency

Let us pray:

Gracious God, may your sacrificial love on the cross move us to the genuine offering of ourselves in obedient service, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

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