Women are strong, and they do meaningful, important work. That’s the message Kerri Colombo sends every time she walks into a grocery store to rescue pallets of food and gets behind the wheel of the 14-foot truck she uses to deliver that rescued food to Danbury’s food pantries.
For the past seven months, Kerri has spent almost every weekday morning driving to local food stores, such as COSTCO, BJs, ShopRite, and Big Y, to pick up the fresh, healthy food the stores are donating to pantries that are members of the Danbury Food Collaborative. After loading the food on the truck—approximately 3,000 pounds per day—she and a volunteer take the food to that day’s designated food pantry.
It’s a physically demanding job, but Kerri embraces the challenge:
“It's important that women pursue work that we are passionate about, even if the job is one traditionally held by men,” Kerri said. “Through my example, my daughters see that opportunities to make a positive impact in the world are limitless and women can do anything,"
Despite the job’s demands, Kerri finds the work extremely rewarding:
“When I make a delivery, I am so moved when I see smiling faces full of gratitude as people wait patiently to go inside from the cold, heat, rain, or snow to receive food for their families,” Kerri said. “Friends and strangers approach me to share stories of how impressed they are with the service and care we provide and ask how they can help make a difference.”
The value of food rescued by Kerri and a team of volunteers has surpassed the $1 million mark since this initiative was begun by Danbury Food Collaborative member Mike Greene in October 2017. Rescued food is valued at $1.67 per pound by Feeding America. For the past 64 weeks, this effort has been rescuing as much as 15,000 pounds—enough food to feed approximately 500 families—each week.
But the hours needed to rescue the food are greater than anticipated, and more funds are needed to keep this effort going. The program is currently running at a deficit. The Danbury Food Collaborative has set up a GoFundMe page in the hopes of raising additional funds. Visit https://www.gofundme.com/danburyfoodrescue
Funds contributed will go directly toward paying the driver, fuel for the truck, and truck maintenance. The GoFundMe target is now $10,000.
Pantries that receive Kerri’s deliveries contribute to the support of the program. They are the Bethel Community Food Pantry, Community Action Agency of Western Connecticut, Interfaith AIDS Ministry of Greater Danbury, and Jericho Partnership. United Way of Western Connecticut oversees the project, paying the driver and for fuel and insurance for the truck. CT Food Bank currently donates the use of a truck for this project.
The pantries are able to accept the deliveries thanks to refrigerators and freezers they obtained through Danbury Food Collaborative grants, and then distribute them to their clients. The rescued food is often of higher quality and of greater nutritional value than the foods that pantry clients typically receive.
“If we did not rescue this perfectly good food, the stores would end up throwing it away,” said Mike Greene. “We are rescuing wonderful fresh vegetables—like broccoli and cucumbers—every day and getting them to people in need.” The food rescuers often get to stores to find whole cases of frozen chicken, fish, and even steaks—all of which are close to their sell-by dates--waiting to be rescued.