The food is boxed up, waiting to travel from Point A to Point B. Beth Skudder is in the area, during her regular daily routine, ready to take a quick drive for Community Plates, a traditional yet modern non-profit, committed to battling hunger. “I’m a busy working mom and I was able to set my own schedule. I don’t have to attend any meetings, the time that I’m donating is having a direct impact,” says this school administrator who often brings her three kids along for the ride. “It’s important for us as a family that we’re showing our kids how lucky they are and how easy it is to make a difference.” The innovative format of Community Plates makes it simple to do good.
Founder Jeff Schacher has a background in both restaurants and software. “He realized a unique opportunity to leverage technology to connect people to the opportunity to rescue —- that’s the word we use — food that would’ve otherwise been thrown away,” says Executive Director Kevin Mullins, explaining that volunteers use a newly launched app, called “GoRescue”, to sign-up for “food runs” in their own cars, from restaurants, farmer’s markets, grocery stores, caterers and bakeries to organizations that serve the hungry. Community Plates operates in Columbus, Ohio, and Albuquerque, New Mexico, along with New Haven and Fairfield counties in Connecticut, where 29 receiving agencies, 37 food donors and 320 volunteers work together. “In the last three years, we have now rescued three million meals,” says Mullins, a former church pastor whose eyes have been opened by his job. “In New Haven, for instance, that’s about 127,000 people that are in need. About 37-thousand children are in this ‘food insecure’ category.” The quick delivery allows for donations to include fresh fruits, vegetables and meats.
Requests for “pick-ups” increase around the holidays. Skudder recently drove from her home in Madison to New Haven restaurant Heirloom, located inside The Study at Yale, to transfer dinners to the Community Soup Kitchen on Chapel Street. “It’s easy to do if I have kids in the car. If I don’t have kids in the car, it’s super flexible and I feel like I’m actually making a difference. I can see what I’m doing,” she says, as she engages her ten year old daughter, Maisey, in this teachable moment. “We’re lucky. We get great meals at home everyday and not everybody is like that. You don’t have to go far away to find that kind of need.” Mullins agrees: “There’s a powerful connection for a kid, a child, to be carrying food and realizing, ‘This person that I’m walking by is actually going to receive this food’, especially at an early, formative age. I think it makes a big difference for us later in life.”
Community Plates (communityplates.org) is poised to move into more cities, spreading it’s message of togetherness. “These are our neighbors in need,” says Skudder. “Today, it’s those people that need us. Tomorrow, it might be us that needs them.” Info: (800) 280-3298.