Despite the fact that everyone needs to eat to survive, food means different things to different people. From our Distribution Center where we move dozens of pallets, to our 90+ partner organizations to whom we directly distribute the food, there are hundreds of people who come into contact with the food, and each holds a different relationship with it.
I did some investigative research on what comes to mind when people think of food, and got some awesome responses!
Food is community. Art. Life. Life-giving. Energy. Everything. Family-time. Home. A blessing. Essential. Happiness.
One thing I heard across the board was that no matter what, gratitude and appreciation for food access were overwhelming themes of my conversations. Speaking with our Mobile Food Market participants, you can feel the positivity radiating from each person I spoke with, so I’d like to share a sampling of some of the conversations I had.
Jessi was one of the first people I spoke with during one of our Mobile Food Markets. She started attending our Mobile Food Markets in the summer of 2022 after her friend told her about We Don’t Waste. Grocery bills had been getting more and more expensive, and with the arrival of her first little one, Declan, her relationship with food changed quickly. She loves to cook, but she was thinking about eating healthily, introducing foods to Declan, and balancing all of this on top of her new responsibilities as a mother.
“Food is community. And I really believe that! I’m really all about the verse that says “taste and see that the lord is good.” I was thinking about it today, it’s even cool standing in line and seeing people in front of me and behind me. And often, people start talking and sharing their story and what is bringing them here. Maybe I never would have met this person before, but here we are standing in line together. And we have the opportunity to chat about our lives and circumstances, and come together.”
For Manuela, food is one of the things that brings her large family together, quite literally, around a busy dinner table! Manuela prepares three meals a day for her husband, four children, and her grandmother.
“Food. I’m thinking about it all the time. I’m thinking of it the night before, what am I going to make tomorrow, what am I making for breakfast, dinner? I don’t want to make the same thing over and over. I look up recipes.”
Between taking care of her four kids and her grandmother, she’s got her hands full! Her oldest is 17 years old, and her youngest just hit one year, but they all stick together like glue, with food being one of the things that unites them. She has the kids help with preparation, and she creates meals inspired by her grandmother’s home in Guatemala.
“Usually, dinner is a big deal. When everyone gets home, we found out how our days went. Usually, Oscar goes to bed pretty early, so we have dinner early, and we just watch TV. The older kids do homework and we stay together.”
Even though money is tight for this family, it’s evident by the stories Manuela tells that her family is even tighter, and meals for them are an important piece of their quality time.
“Food helps you do everything! Food is going out for adventures, and going out with the kids to have fun! It gets you out the door to do new things.”
A huge portion of the food We Don’t Waste distributes goes to local nonprofits serving our neighbors in a variety of contexts. I spoke with Jone, who works at the Mariposa House with The Empowerment Program. One of the organization’s services is providing shelter for women who have been victims of domestic abuse, and preparing them with the resources and the skills they need to restart life independently and healthfully.
Jone was kind enough to show me around the Mariposa House, and guide me through the kitchen and pantry where the food from We Don’t Waste is stored. Each woman has her own cupboard and section of the fridge, and Jone prepares meals for the women to share.
“Every day I prepare dinner for them, and we all sit down together to eat and talk. We’re really about building a community here. And the women, they love it! Every day they say ‘Miss Jone, what’s for dinner, what are you making?’ and we talk and laugh and have a good time.”
The women in the house also practice food recovery of their own and save seeds from the produce they receive to grow as much food as they can in the garden. Jone showed me the garden by the side of the kitchen, with some herbs and squash displayed proudly.
This house was creating a safe space and a family for these women, and Jone was proud to share stories about the women who had recently found full-time work, and were able to transition out of the Mariposa House. She thanked We Don’t Waste profusely while breaking down the ground meat for their spaghetti night.
“With this food, we can take one less thing off of these women’s minds. They focus on themselves and where they’re going. We are just so grateful for the food you give us.”
A good meal can be easy to take for granted, but for so many Coloradans, it means so much to have a full plate. This Colorado Gives Day, you can help us provide more recovered food to organizations serving our community, and directly to families and individuals.
With the match from our friends at CoBank and PB and K Family Foundation, a gift of $50 will provide over 600 meals to families like Manuela and Jessi’s, or will provide two weeks of meals at the Mariposa House.