I was reading Michael Roth's blog at Wesleyan this morning and saw that Wesleyan students did a fundraiser for the Amazing Grace Food Pantry, with a whopping total of $11,000 in food.
I talked to Ron Krom, the director of Amazing Grace Food Pantry (and the St. Vincent de Paul Soup Kitchen), and learned a little more about the donation. He said this ranks as one of the 2 or 3 biggest donations of food that they will receive during the year. This donation is a little different than a regular food drive. Instead of donating cans of food, the students fasted for one day and donated the cost of that day's meals directly from their student accounts -- so Amazing Grace can now use those funds to purchase food -- at distributor prices, not at retail -- from the Weshop. This means that the pantry can decide when and what they need -- if they're a little short on Peanut Butter one month, they can just order it from Weshop.
I learned a little more about the food pantry's operations from Ron. Currently there are about 660 families that come once a month to get food from Amazing Grace (which is up 10% from this time last year). That adds up to about 1000 adults, 500 children, and 200 seniors every month. Each household can get 3 days worth of food -- breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Amazing Grace gets about half of their food supplies from the CT Food Bank, a centralized food pantry that distributes throughout New Haven and Middlesex Counties. And they get the other half through a program that they developed called "Families Feeding Families". This effort pools the food donations of churches, businesses, social clubs -- you name it -- who pledge to donate a certain amount of certain staple items each month. (At South Church we call ourselves "The Tunafish Church" -- we commit to donating at least 100 cans a month.) This smart program, which maximizes the impact of the community's generosity, is coordinated by the always-involved -citizen-volunteers Nancy Meyer and Mimi Rich.
Ron was just blown away by how much the Wesleyan fundraiser grew from its first year -- when it brought in $4,400 in food. He talked about how moving it was to join hundreds of students as they broke the fast at the Usdan Center, with a line stretching out of the building, and how he then got the chance to talk to them about hunger and homelessness in Middletown. This has already brought some new Wes volunteers into his organization.
The idea for the fundraiser came to Wesleyan through a student, Nadeem Modan, class of 2010. The "Fast-a-thon" coincides with Ramadan, the traditional Muslim month-long fast, and the fundraiser was an interfaith event that involved students and staff of all religions (or none at all.) Nadeem should be proud -- he did a wonderful thing for all the people who will be fed by Amazing Grace, and for those of us who are inspired by his vision!
If you know of a group that might like to make monthly contributions to Amazing Grace's "Families Feeding Families" program, you can email Ron at firstname.lastname@example.org.