Tucked away in the northeast quadrant of DC is a vibrant nonprofit organization doing some incredible community work. From my first day volunteering at Food & Friends, I was impressed with the incredible attention to detail and thoughtfulness given to every aspect of meal production from menu planning to packaging and delivery. Each day, the amazing staff and volunteers ensure that Food & Friends stays true to its tagline, “Delivering hope, one meal at a time.”
The clients of Food & Friends have a number of things in common. They are chronically ill or in hospice care; a majority are additionally battling poverty; many are home bound and they are often forgotten by society at large. Food & Friends allows clients to continue to live their lives with dignity. By having freshly prepared meals delivered directly to their homes, many clients are able to continue to take care of themselves.
Families and friends are also able to more easily care for their loved ones. I will never forget the mother battling breast cancer whose young teenage daughter living with autism was able to feel helpful by microwaving meals for her sick mother.
Being given additional meals for dependents and caregivers is another way in which families are helped at a difficult time, which for most is an ongoing battle spanning months, years or a lifetime. A variety of menus that rotate throughout the year provide interesting foods for when a person’s appetite may be adversely affected by illness or side effects from treatments and medications. Soup and dessert accompany every meal to round out the meal and for times when a client is unable to eat anything else. Wouldn’t we all want that?
On his or her birthday, each client receives a special cake brightly covered with sprinkles in a hand-decorated bag. These bags, like all Food & Friends packaging, do not say “Food & Friends” on them. It’s not that the organization is not proud of its work, but rather, it cares deeply about protecting the anonymity of the clients. Some do not want others knowing they are receiving assistance, while others have not shared their health status with friends and relatives. Food & Friends ensures that everyone’s information is kept confidential.
Even when we know that someone in our community is ill, too often we rally around the person during an initial diagnosis or in the immediate time that follows. Weeks go by, and we return to our routines as more pressing matters come along. However, for those who are chronically ill, the battle is constant.
Food & Friends is there, ensuring that our neighbors and friends can continue to receive specialized meals and critical nutritional counseling along with nourishment of the spirit. When arriving at a client’s home, delivery volunteers simply say, “I’m here with your meal delivery.” However, for many people on service, these words mean so much more! When volunteers and staff deliver meals, it is a routine reminder: “You are not alone. You are not forgotten. You matter.”
Photo credit: Lloyd Wolf Photographer.