Carrie Stoltzfus, Executive Director - September 18, 2020
The past few months have truly been remarkable, both for the difficulties faced and the many moments of good that have followed in the wake of those challenges. Normally, I would reach out this time of year to provide a snapshot of what’s been happening at Food & Friends and update you on our progress for the year.
Throughout our history, Food & Friends has always risen to the moment to meet the needs of our community. While I have much good news to share, I also want to take a moment to reflect on how Food & Friends fits into the larger issues that we’re all grappling with right now, and the critical role that you, a supporter of our work, play in this moment.
The mission of Food & Friends is so important precisely because illness does not affect everyone equally. While a serious diagnosis can derail anyone’s life, there are many members of our community that are at much greater risk due to hardships they faced before their diagnosis. Individuals who have been denied quality healthcare, nutritious food and financial stability over the course of their lives are already in precarious positions. When illness strikes, there is little to fall back on.
These inequalities are the result of systemic failures, wherein our healthcare and food supply systems have left many behind. Black and Latino communities in our region often face higher barriers to quality healthcare, as do our immigrant and LGBTQ neighbors.
With your support, Food & Friends has always stepped in when other institutions haven’t done enough, whether that was due to discrimination against those with HIV/AIDS or the marginalization of communities of color. LGBTQ and Black communities in particular have driven Food & Friends’ response to addressing those inequities since our founding. Together, we bridge gaps in care by meeting sick individuals where they are, in their homes, with the specific nutrition they need and the kind words of a neighbor.
Food & Friends also plays a role in keeping sick individuals engaged in their medical care, which can be particularly challenging for those already under-resourced and burdened by other stressors. Our dietitian and client services teams operate in close communication with our clients and their health care providers, helping our clients navigate the complexities of their own health and the medical system more broadly. We work with area medical schools to educate future clinicians about the challenges their patients may be facing at home, such as traveling to the grocery store by multiple busses or having a faulty stove they can’t afford to fix.
The bottom line is that you help create a compassionate community determined to help all neighbors live with dignity and hope, and I couldn’t be more grateful. Your steadfast support also makes it possible for us to be a leader on the frontlines. Throughout this pandemic, we’ve been in close communication with other D.C. emergency food providers in the public and nonprofit space. We’re listening closely to the needs of our wider community and are also proactively seeking greater feedback from our clients.
This year’s annual client survey will help assess our clients’ technology access, which is becoming increasingly important as more communications and resources move online. We’ll also be participating in a Georgetown University study on social isolation during the pandemic, helping build the body of research around this often neglected problem. Lastly, we’re working to strengthen our overall program evaluation in partnership with DC Health. I look forward to sharing our findings in the future.
Over the past 24 months, we’ve seen overall growth in our services rise by more than 20%, in part due to the need of those with serious illnesses to isolate at home due to the COVID pandemic. This summer alone, we’re delivering 15-20% more meals each week than originally planned. Your support has allowed that to happen and will continue to be essential. With economic uncertainty and growing food insecurity in our region, home-delivered meals will be a sorely needed resource for those facing illness and new diagnoses. The Food & Friends community will be here, ready to serve.
To keep up with the expected demand, we’re exploring innovative ways to utilize our building and grounds, piloting a shipping program in Washington County, and creating new efficiencies in our program operations. Out of challenges come opportunities, and I thank you for joining us in this effort to strengthen and expand our service. You are a lifeline to our clients and a partner in our work.
I know it is hard to keep up with the world these days, so thank you for taking the time to read this message. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me via email at Cstoltzfus@foodandfriends.org. It is always a pleasure to hear from members of our community. Please stay healthy and safe.
Carrie Stoltzfus, MPH