When the "Shuttle" in Food Shuttle Breaks Down

Hello, Food Shuttle fans! My name is Mollie Mayfield, aka “Scoop” around here, and I’m the new Communications Coordinator at IFFS. I’m working with the Food Shuttle through an Americorps program called Public Allies, a program geared towards leadership development, non-profit apprenticeships, and social change. My role at the food shuttle is to tell our organization’s story and serve as an internal reporter – getting the “scoop” on what’s happening in all our programs, hence the nickname! This is my fourth week here, and this morning I was supposed to ride in good old Truck # 1 for the first time to document and experience my first mobile market in Princeville, NC at Freedom Hill Community Health Center!  Mobile Markets bring fresh produce into food insecure communities. Through partnerships with health centers, in addition to hunger relief, Mobile Markets provide “prescription produce” to people suffering from obesity and chronic diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure. This enables patients to follow their doctor’s dietary instructions when they otherwise might be unable to afford to do so through access to fresh, nutritious food.

Needless to say, I was excited to get to witness this first hand, but sadly I never made it to Princeville. Just twenty minutes out, our trusty (only a little) rusty truck starts acting funny. Erick, our driver, looks behind him and sees smoke -  a lot of it! We pull over to the side of the highway and the smoke starts blowing in the vents into the cab. Erick, Jeremiah, a volunteer who was with us, and I all hop out of the truck and see oil gushing from the underside. Erick pops open the hood and more smoke pours out.  It was clear we weren’t going any further. We feared the engine had exploded. Truck # 1 is one of our oldest trucks and had been in and out of the shop, but it may have finally passed the point of no repair. This truck is supposed to be replaced by a grant this winter through Feeding America and the Tepper Foundation - but it can't come soon enough.  As I was sitting on the side of the highway waiting for someone to pick us up, I couldn’t help but think of all of the people who were waiting for us, depending on our arrival to eat that day. It broke my heart to imagine their disappointment and growling stomachs – and just two days before Thanksgiving. When the “shuttle” in food shuttle breaks down, it means hungry families don’t eat.

Volunteers and staff at the Food Shuttle encounter challenges like this on a daily basis, especially in these tough economic times – whether it’s a truck breaking down on the side of the road or not having enough jars of applesauce to put in each backpack of food for hungry children in the Triangle.  But they keep going because doing SOMETHING is better than doing NOTHING.

It is so critical for our trucks to run - we depend on them to pick up the food from grocery stores, catering companies, corporate cafeterias, restaurants, wholesale food brokers, vending companies, and The North Carolina State Farmers Market, and these refrigerated trucks are how we distribute it to over 220 agencies and programs that serve the greater Triangle area - so they get a lot of use!

Until the grant for a new truck comes through, we may have to rent a truck to keep up all our current operations, and this of course, costs money. As we enter the holiday season, please think of the Food Shuttle and those we serve – right here in our own backyards and communities - in this season of giving. Donate today and help us keep our trucks running!

Meanwhile, we'll try again to go to Freedom Hill Community Health Center in a different truck to get that produce to those who are so in need of it. Obstacles like this always arise when you’re doing good work, but we will persist, as our volunteers always do, in the face of these obstacles because we still believe that hunger is unacceptable.