It begins, every evening, with a detailed email outlining where Food Link’s rescued food is going, and what is requested. For example:
“Lex Eat Together this Wednesday would like granny smith apples”
“Please save the additional food for Housing Families:
Lettuce or fresh spinach, Tomato, cucumber, Deli meat turkey and ham, Meatballs, Sliced cheese or cheese of some sort that we can slice or shred………..”
The lists are sometimes exhaustive, and sometimes not. It is often up to volunteers to use their best judgement, or defer to that days’ head volunteer!
The next morning, rain or shine, volunteers converge on the loading bay of Food Link’s first grocery store pick-up, armed with banana boxes (Food Link's preferred method of produce transport), cooler bags and chests (for perishables) and compost buckets (for anything that is spoiled).
Food Link collects from Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods seven days a week. Volunteers from Food Link use the van “aMEALia” and their own vehicles to collect anywhere from a few dozen to fifty boxes of fresh produce, pantry staples, frozen items, prepared food, and bread. First time volunteers are always shocked at the quantity and quality of the food that would have otherwise been wasted.
Volunteers sort through these items to determine if there is anything rotten or bad, disposing those items in industrial composters at the stores. Everything else gets sorted according to the needs of the agencies.
Volunteers are constantly asking themselves questions as they determine what goes where:
What organization can use this food the most today? Who is going to be able to utilize 5 enormous butternut squash? What the HECK is this weird fruit? This salad only has a day or two left, who can utilize it?
Volunteers carefully pack the van, often labeling the boxes with shorthand and shouting out the labels as they go.“This box of prepared foods will go to BHCC today!” (that’s Bunker Hill Community College)“Save that milk for MM” (Menotomy Manor).
A regular stop is Drake Village, where the residents greet Food Link volunteers at the door and rapidly unload boxes, getting ready for their daily in-house food pantry. Drake Village is an Arlington Housing Authority building. Food Link provides their residents with fresh, nutritious food every day!
On any given day, Food Link can be seen delivering fresh food to about six organizations in Arlington and surrounding communities.
Somehow, the organized chaos always gets sorted out. The van travels to any number of stops before returning to the Arlington Food Pantry.
The Arlington Food Pantry has graciously shared their space with Food Link, providing a place for the group to sort and store food. Food Link provides fresh fruits and vegetables, milk, eggs, and meat to the pantry. Food Link volunteers save perishable items for the weekly pantries which are every Wednesday from 9-10:30am and 5:30-7pm.
Thanks to recent donations, Food Link now has a new large refrigerator and freezer to store perishables! This allows us to hold onto berries, greens, eggs, milk, meat and more until it can be distributed.
The day is not quite over yet. Every evening, Food Link goes back to it’s origins and picks up bread and pastries from Panera. This bread is dropped off at the Food Pantry for delivery the next morning.
At the end of every day, Food Link totals the amount of food collected. To date, Food Link has prevented 1.4 million pounds of food from entering our landfills.
Every day is a little different, and each day brings new challenges! Through it all, Food Link remains committed to rescuing fresh, nutritious food for those in our community without access. We love knowing that the good food we deliver will become a delicious meal!