Give someone a fish and they eat for a day. Teach someone to fish – and how to restock the pond – and you have the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle, a program that targets hunger, transforms lives and plants new growth to end hunger for good.
Inter-Faith Food Shuttle was born in 1989, when founders Jill Staton Bullard and Maxine Solomon learned that some food that restaurants didn’t sell got thrown away. Their discovery uncovered an untapped source in the fight to end hunger: restaurants, catering companies and other businesses that have to throw away prepared or fresh foods that go unsold.
From those beginnings, the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle has become the source for nutritious, fresh food for the hungry in seven counties.
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In 2015 alone, the organization recovered more than 6.1 million pounds of food from some 200 grocery stores, wholesalers, food brokers, vending and catering companies, corporate cafeterias, and the State Farmers Market, says Cindy Sink, Inter-Faith Food Shuttle’s director of marketing, communication and development. Even more was gleaned from local farm fields.
All of the recovered food is delivered to 189 programs and 172 agencies that feed the hungry and distribute it via free Mobile Markets and a food truck in low-income neighborhoods across Wake, Durham, Orange, Chatham, Johnston, Edgecombe and Nash counties.
Inter-Faith Food Shuttle may be best known for its Backpack Buddies program, which provides children from food-insecure homes with healthy meals for the weekend during the school year. The children, selected by school principals, guidance counselors and supervisors of various after-school programs, receive a backpack containing six balanced meals and two healthy snacks at the end of every week. It also provides groceries for senior citizens in need.
We fight hunger because there’s an immediate need, and we also know we have to go after the root cause of hunger: poverty and lack of access in food deserts where little to no healthy food is available.
Cindy Sink, Inter-Faith Food Shuttle’s director of marketing, communication and development
But Inter-Faith Food Shuttle has taken the fight against hunger to new levels in an effort to make recipients – even entire neighborhoods – more self-sufficient and healthy. Classes in cooking for underemployed adults are now offered, as is training in how to grow a garden of your own in the “Seed to Supper” program.
“We know that putting food on the plate will never end hunger,” Sink says. “We fight hunger because there’s an immediate need, and we also know we have to go after the root cause of hunger: poverty and lack of access in food deserts where little to no healthy food is available.
“So wherever possible, we teach the skills of self-sufficiency,” she said. “We’re always looking for ways to lead people to the knowledge that empowers them around food issues.”
The Inter-Faith Food Shuttle is open to all faiths and is not funded by any religious organization, although many area churches support and contribute to their programs. The “Inter-Faith” refers to the founders – Staton Bullard is Episcopalian and Solomon is Jewish. Their children suggested the name when they founded the program.
Inter-Faith Food Shuttle receives most of its annual $3 million budget from individual donations. Food contributions come from all over, but monetary donations go the farthest. As a social service agency, Inter-Faith Food Shuttle can purchase food, particularly much-needed perishable items, at a significantly lower cost than individuals can.
In the wake of Hurricane Matthew, the need for food in eastern North Carolina is growing more pressing, especially during the holidays.
“We won’t know for a while yet how bad things are,” Sink said. “We’ll know more as time goes on, but it will be a high need.”
Inter-Faith Food Shuttle welcomes all financial support, Sink said, because no one in need is ever turned away.
“We don’t ask why you are hungry,” she said. “We don’t judge or wonder why you are here. You are welcome to it.”
Inter-Faith Food Shuttle
1001 Blair Drive, Suite 120
Raleigh, NC 27603
Contact: Sally Bache, 919-256-3878
Description: Inter-Faith Food Shuttle pioneers innovative, transformative solutions designed to end hunger in our community. We feed, we teach and we grow. Some of our signature programs include food recovery and distribution, culinary job training, BackPack Buddies, teaching farm, urban agriculture, gleaning program, nutrition education and summer meals for children.
Donations needed: Monetary donations can be made securely at www.foodshuttle.org. As a Feeding America member food bank, our purchasing power allows your donated dollar to go further. Plus, the Stewards Fund will match new donations dollar for dollar through Dec. 31. Food drives are always welcome, particularly for BackPack Buddies: foodshuttle.org/how-to-help/hold-a-food-drive/
Volunteers needed: We utilize volunteers year-round in all of our program areas. Individuals and groups are welcome. Visit foodshuttle.org/how-to-help/volunteer-opportunities/ to find out more and create a volunteer account.
$10 would buy: A child’s BackPack Buddies bag filled with six healthy meals for the weekend.
$20 would buy: Over 40 meals, including healthy produce.
$50 would buy: Fresh produce for a school pantry for a month.