Update from Executive Director, Carrie Stoltzfus

- March 1, 2021

As we begin 2021, I want to express my deep gratitude for your unwavering support, and share my excitement for the future.  2020 presented many challenges that were unforeseen, but your support helped us respond and adapt to serve our clients during a year when it was even more important for people with a serious illness to receive food at home.

Responding and Adapting

AKA Sorority volunteer packing grocery bags on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

At the start of FY20, we projected a modest increase in the number of meals we would serve, but with the pandemic came a rise in food insecurity and a surge in client referrals. The demand for Food & Friends resulted in an unexpected growth of 10%—we provided more than 1.2 million medically tailored home-delivered meals to 3,622 individuals, including those living with a serious or chronic illness and their dependents and caregivers.

While the growth in our meal service is incredible, it was not without obstacles. You may recall that weeks into the pandemic:

  • We had to adjust our meal preparation and packaging systems to allow us to work with fewer volunteers in order to meet social distancing guidelines—shifting from about 75 volunteers a day to about 30.
  • The nation’s strained food systems and supply chains presented ordering issues and delays that required adjustments to menus, and to minimize in-person contact, we had to pivot from delivering six meals three times a week to delivering 18 meals once a week. This involved a logistic overhaul of our delivery program that ultimately improved efficiency for our drivers and volunteers.
  • Our client services team addressed the reduced opportunities for in-person contact with clients by adding new client-centered information on our website, and by creating virtual opportunities for our clients to come together for focus groups and nutrition education through Zoom.  Our clients have really enjoyed getting together this way, and it’s something we plan to continue.

As I reflect on all that we accomplished, I can’t emphasize enough how your incredible support provided both resources and confidence for our staff to change and adapt throughout the year.

 

Strength of Community

Carrie Stoltzus, Executive Director and Prince George’s County Executive, Angela Alsobrooks packing meals in the kitchen.

Food & Friends is a community-based organization in the truest sense of the word.  You are a part of that community, along with our valued public and private organizational partners.

Food & Friends’ role as a leader, anchor institution and essential service in the Washington, D.C. region was reinforced when Mayor Muriel Bowser held a COVID-related press conference at Food & Friends in March. Also in the spring, Food & Friends shared our guidelines for no-contact deliveries with D.C. Health, which became the standard that was shared with other community-based organizations that had to adjust their own food distribution systems.

The Maryland Department of Human Services, led by Secretary Lourdes Padilla, supported us through Federal Cares Act funding as part of Maryland’s efforts to address the increase in food insecurity in the state as a result of the pandemic. Twenty-five percent of our clients live in Prince George’s County, MD, making it the second-largest jurisdiction we serve. Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks and her office volunteered twice in 2020, strengthening our partnership with Prince George’s County.

You may not know we partner with area medical schools to create opportunities for students to learn about social determinants of health, and to assess ways to better serve our clients. With the Georgetown University Translational and Clinical Studies Program, we are collaborating on a research study that looked at how COVID-19 has impacted social connection and quality of life for clients. In a partnership with the Georgetown University School of Medicine and D.C. Health, we are surveying clients who have left our program in order to assess their ongoing food needs, their health status, and social isolation. Gaining a better understanding of our clients’ experience once they no longer need Food & Friends will help us improve our services and better understand the impact of medically tailored meals on population health and food security in D.C.

The strength of our community is exemplified by the leadership of our Board of Directors, which was recognized by The Center for Non-Profit Advancement as the runner up for their 2020 Board Leadership Award. In another show of confidence, the A. James and Alice B. Clark Foundation awarded Food & Friends a capacity-building grant that will allow us to upgrade our software systems, conduct a building feasibility study to explore site expansion and complete an organization-wide technology assessment with Hartman Executive Advisors, which will help us serve our clients better and more efficiently.

 

Looking to the Future

Volunteers packing meals for delivery in our cramped expediting area.

Throughout a year of uncertainty, your valued investment helped Food & Friends meet our commitments to our clients through providing nourishment and friendship to our sick neighbors and helping them achieve better health. You—our generous supporters and volunteers—responded to the surge in need and unforeseen expenses by showcasing your commitment to our mission. I know our clients share my deep gratitude to you.

While the pandemic is not yet behind us, hope is on the horizon even as staff, volunteers, and clients will continue to experience COVID fatigue. Yes, we will have to navigate challenges—but one thing remains true—Food & Friends is 100% committed to taking care of those who are too sick to cook or shop for themselves. It is a responsibility we do not take lightly. We just need more space! In the year ahead, we will be exploring how we can continue to serve more people in need and I look forward to sharing those plans as they unfold.

In the meantime, thank you from the bottom of my heart. Your unwavering support made all that we accomplished in 2020 possible. I am excited to work together in 2021. As always, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me via email at cstoltzfus@foodandfriends.org.

 

Carrie Stoltzfus, MPH

Executive Director

Donate
Volunteer
News Archive