FDN Volunteers in their own words, Fall 2021

Gretchen Rymarchyk, volunteer since 2018: I became involved with FDN via an email from the local Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) group of a shift opening once a month to service a Southside Community Center Food Pantry. As a single parent who works full time, it’s really hard for me to commit to volunteer opportunities, much as I would like to. But my one-Saturday-morning-per-month commitment to FDN is really perfect: I drive to all 3 Greenstar locations to pick up whatever they have (it always looks so delicious!), then drop it off at Southside. It takes about an hour, I am done by 11am, and can feel good about having 1. rescued food, 2. helped hungry people, and 3. supported Southside. I have also made connections with people at each of these stops, and now when we see each other in the community, we say hi!

Howard London, volunteer for more than 15 years: The Longview senior living facility and the Salvation Army cooperate in a food rescue program–I facilitate their effort by transporting the food from Longview to the Salvation Army. The Longview kitchen prepares hot food for the residents at lunch and dinner, often a bit more than is needed so some never leaves the kitchen.  Those leftovers are dished into small plastic storage containers which are then placed in their storage freezer.  Each Friday I pick up the weeks’ containers and take them downtown to the Salvation Army.  Their staff and volunteers prepare free lunch on Saturday and free supper on Sunday, typically 200-250 people both days.

Ken Finkelstein, volunteer since 2011: Report from the trenches at FDN
2021 has been another very busy year for FDN. We benefited a lot from “figuring out”
how to do the work safely during pandemic months of 2020, but the need has not
diminished, and strain on families and folks we serve may have increased as kids go
back to school and the economy continues to sputter.
It’s wonderful to see many new volunteers, and increased donations from farms and
other businesses. FDN is a well-oiled machine with strengthened connections to the
community. The next big challenge may come January 1, 2022, when the NYS Food
Donation and Food Scraps Recycling law goes into effect. It requires businesses and
institutions generating an annual average of two tons or more of wasted food per week to:

  1. donate excess edible food; and
  2. recycle all remaining food scraps if they are within 25 miles of an organics
    recycler (composting facility, anaerobic digester, etc.).
    FDN may have a bigger job to do, but I feel confident that with community support we
    will rise to the challenge. May we all look forward to a better year in 2022.

Anonymous volunteer since 2016: This may sound selfish, but I volunteer for FDN because of the sheer joy and fulfillment it brings me.  Food is one of the most basic human needs and it is crazy to me, that in a county with such abundance, that there are still people who don’t have enough to eat.  I am also always so amazed at the amount of food that would go straight to a landfill if it weren’t for Friendship Donations Network. Americans waste approximately FORTY percent of the food produced. Before I started volunteering for FDN, I saved what I could as an individual, but mostly just watched in total dismay from the sidelines.  Since I started to volunteer at FDN, I feel like I have found my place- AND my people!  Rescuing food and feeding hungry people is a profound mix of common sense, environmentalism, but above all, love.  It is such an honor to be part of this work.

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