While the COVID crisis has presented UGM with numerous challenges – masks, social distancing, reduced capacity, cancellation of events – it has also presented a fabulous opportunity for UGM to serve more people in a critical way.
When the virus first hit, restaurants closed across the region. Not only did those restaurants have large quantities of prepared food that needed to be used, the purveyors who supply those restaurants had tons of product ready to deliver to businesses who no longer needed it.
UGM started getting lots of calls from people who wanted to donate food – a huge blessing, for sure – but it came with a challenge: most of this food had a limited shelf life. It needed to be used quickly or go to waste. And there was more food than UGM could use at its four shelters – more food than we could even store.
Enter a beautiful collaborative effort between US Foods, local restaurants, churches, other non-profits and UGM. US Foods provided a refrigerated trailer for UGM to park in our back lot. They also sent lots of quality food product – dairy, eggs, meat, produce and more – which we either used or passed along to other non-profits who share our mission.
As a Donated Food Distributing Organization, UGM is well equipped to help smaller non-profits who do not have either refrigerated transport or the capacity to store large amounts of food. We don’t have the staff to organize food distribution to individuals, but we can get it into the hands of people who take the next step.
Dave Nelson is one of those people. A pastor at Grace Christian Fellowship, Dave recognized a meaningful way to reach out to his community. He started picking up food from UGM and worked with staff at Logan Elementary, located in one of the highest poverty areas in the county, to distribute that food to families in need. Dave said families were even picking up food to share with other families. “There’s quite a bit of sharing the love.”
Ryan Brown, UGM Director of Youth Outreach, jumped on the food distribution train, as well, delivering food boxes to the families of students who could no longer come for community meals at the Student Impact Center. Ryan said it was a great opportunity to serve not just the kids, but the whole family.
Patrick Vollmer, owner of Blaze Pizza, was on the other end of the food chain. He had to close Blaze for an extended period and knew right where he wanted to go with all those pizza crusts, sauces and toppings. “It’s been a blessing to be a part of what UGM does in this community.” The food donated from Blaze fed over 600 people through UGM.
During difficult times, it helps to know that God is still at work, providing abundantly for those in need.