Preserving local fresh food to nourish the hungry
Bethesda Cares serves 20,000 meals per year to the homeless population in the community through a dedicated and caring network of church and community organizations, businesses, Foundations, and government agencies. Bethesda Cares is the official ‘gleaner’ of the Bethesda Fresh Farm Market. Farmers, including Spiral Path Farm, donate fresh produce not sold at the Saturday market, donating an average of 300-400 lbs. of local produce per week—including bushels of tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and zucchini. When crops are at peak harvest, Bethesda Cares receives more fresh food than it can use before the food spoils.
To address this problem of spoiled food, Bethesda Cares and Full Plate Ventures launched Farm to Freezer this summer with support from a diverse network of volunteers, Churches’ donated kitchen space, and businesses. Bethesda Cares’ meals manager who cooks a hot lunch for 40-70 each day uses the frozen food in preparing healthier meals for its clients.
Our First Season
Farm to Freezer is proud of its accomplishments this first season! In its first five months, Farm to Freezer has:
- Engaged more than 150 volunteers from diverse backgrounds and experiences
- Redistributed more than 5,000 pounds of organic vegetables donated from Spiral Path Farm
- Prepared more than 1,400 pounds of food for the freezer to serve 2,500 homeless people through Bethesda Cares’ meals program throughout the year.
A Day with Farm to Freezer
Every Saturday morning, we load up cars with all the equipment and supplies for our prep day. At 1pm we arrive at the Spiral Path Farm stand at the Bethesda’s Fresh Farm Market and meet residents from Montgomery County’s Pre-Release Center, who work with us to collect, weigh, record, and distribute generously-donated produce. The unsold produce is collected, weighed, and redistributed to three locations: salad greens and other vegetables used fresh goes to Bethesda Cares’ cook, other produce is loaded into our cars for prep, and any remaining food we don’t have capacity to prepare goes to MANNA Food Center for needy families.
Within the hour we arrive at our prep kitchen in one of three donated church kitchens where we meet and greet ten volunteers and hit the ground running! After a quick orientation, we wash up, don aprons, name buttons, and gloves and start chopping. With the incredible culinary efforts of our volunteers, the entire stovetop is soon filled with pots of simmering tomato sauce and apple sauce, pots of brightly blanched sweet peppers and zucchini, while eggplant roasts in the oven.
The mixed aromas waft throughout the church and attract curious visitors wanting to know what’s cookin’. After everything is chopped and sauce is cooling we take a well-deserved break, munching on Cheryl’s homemade hummus, sliced veggies, and donated Honest Tea and Atwater bakery bread while discussing food issues –hunger and homelessness, local farms, food banks, wasted food, and community service.
We all head back to the kitchen to package our product with a vacuum sealer and in Ziploc bags. After all is sealed, weighed, recorded, and cleaned up, we thank our wonderful volunteers, and transport our food to Bethesda Cares’ freezer for the cook’s future use in casseroles, stews, and soups. The food peelings are composted, equipment stored, and aprons washed for the following week. Prep days involve hours spent meeting new friends, sharing a love of cooking and bonding over a common goal: to serve through the preparation of healthy meals for hungry members of our community.
Farm to Freezer Benefits the Whole Community
1). Provides healthier unadulterated food for Bethesda Cares’ client meals that can be used through the winter when fresh local vegetables are unavailable.
2). Supports farmers through tax-deductible donations
3). Reduces the amount of waste from Farmer’s Markets’ surplus
4). Provides community-wide volunteer opportunities
5) Raises local awareness about homelessness, nutrition, and locally-grown food
Susan Kirk, Executive Director, email@example.com
Bethesda Cares, Inc. offers flexible, creative responses to problems related to homelessness and poverty. We are located in Bethesda, the services are offered to those living on the street from the DC Metro area. Homeless prevention is available for residents of Montgomery County. Eviction prevention keeps people from becoming homeless and is a high priority of Bethesda Cares in stopping the creation of homeless people. Bethesda Cares also provides On-site services, Clothing Closet, Assistance with Prescriptions, and Psychiatric Services.
From the time Bethesda Cares first opened its doors, serving lunch has been an ongoing program. First and foremost food is available to alleviate hunger and reduce harm to the individual. Secondly, it is a means of engagement to services for those living on the streets. One may hear of lunch then learn of other services available or may not want other services at this time but willing later when the person feels most comfortable.
Four area churches open their social halls to help feed the homeless. An amazing show of support from the community makes this possible. Scheduled volunteers serve lunch, bring food, and hold food drives to make this the “best soup kitchen” in the words of a client. It is indeed magic when many hands faithfully come together to help those who have the least in our community. Thanks to our congregational partners: The Church in Bethesda, Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church, Bethesda Presbyterian Church and Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church for their long term faithfulness in serving the homeless and working poor in our community.
Cheryl Kollin, Principal, firstname.lastname@example.org
Cheryl Kollin is founder and principal of Full Plate Ventures, LLC and is passionate about building sustainable, regional food systems. She provides business consulting to social enterprises to enhance their profitability while serving their social missions. Cheryl offers strategic planning, operations and logistics planning, program capacity building, cost accounting, and communications to clients.
Cheryl is a founding council member of the Montgomery Food Council and co-chairs the Food Access Working Group. Cheryl also is passionate about gardening and cooking. She won the 2012 Adat Shalom Iron Chef cooking contest as a fundraiser for her synagogue and will defend her title in 2013. She is a Montgomery County Certified Food Safety Manager. She has taught a variety of cooking classes for the home cook. She is also a home gardener and co-leads the Mishnah Garden at Adat Shalom Congregation that teaches gardening and raises fresh food for donation to Manna.