Dick Jones recently joined Inter-Faith Food Shuttle's Board of Directors after previously serving on the IFFS Operations Committee. He lives in Raleigh and is enjoying retirement following his career with Carolina Power and Light.
A couple of years ago I attended one of the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle's periodic "Lunch and Learn" events. I had made a year-end contribution to IFFS but knew very little about the organization or what it did, other than collect canned food to distribute to those in need. What I learned from the presentations of IFFS' co-founder Jill Staton Bullard and her staff was indeed impressive and eye opening! IFFS is a dynamic and creative organization. It has morphed far beyond its birth as a traditional food bank simply collecting and distributing food.
One of the things I like most about IFFS is that it is not constrained by geography or turf. It partners with scores of other nonprofits to not just provide food to those who are in need – but also to help folks foster good habits about what they eat, to enhance their ability to provide for themselves, to learn how to shop for food wisely, and even how to grow their own fresh produce!
My interest tweaked, I got involved in committee work and even did a few turns as crew on one of trucks picking up food from donor grocery stores. Recently I was elected to serve on the Board of Directors of this diverse and energetic organization.
The first IFFS Board of Directors meeting I attended provided confirmation of all of this. The meeting was not held in Raleigh or even in a building owned or controlled by IFFS. Rather it was held at the Bull City Cool Food Hub, a newly retooled inner city gas station and tire warehouse rehabilitated by Reinvestment Partners. Bull City Cool is equipped with commercial grade refrigeration storage facilities, meeting space, and warehouse space that is shared by for-profit and nonprofit entities (including IFFS). Bull City Cool is located in – and serves – the Geer Street corridor in Durham, which has been one of Durham's most distressed neighborhoods
This is where IFFS fits in. As one of the partners in the ambitious undertaking to provide food, education, and support to those in need in downtown Durham, IFFS relocated its Durham urban garden programming and its Durham BackPack Buddies operation to Geer Street.
The new Geer Street Learning Garden is growing on property made available by Reinvestment Partners just half a block from the Bull City Cool Food Hub facility. The Board of Directors was infected by the enthusiasm of Eliza Bordley who runs the gardening program in which participants not only learn important urban gardening skills but also develop skills in building and design, community engagement, and produce distribution.
Moving Durham BackPack Buddies to the Bull City Cool facility has provided a convenient location for sorting and warehousing food collected through Porch-Durham and other donors. This food and other nutritious staples are packaged into bags to provide six meals and two healthy snacks for over 500 carefully selected Durham students each weekend.
I continue to be impressed as I learn more and more about the many creative ways IFFS addresses hunger in the midst of plenty. I invite you to see for yourself by attending one of the Food Shuttle’s upcoming “Lunch and Learns”!
By Dick Jones, IFFS Board of Directors.