Food Connection

Mendy Godman, Sue Hawes, and Kim Aprill founded the Charlotte chapter of Food Connection in September 2018. Prior to beginning Food Connection, Godman worked in sales, Hawes in the nonprofit sector, and Aprill was a social worker. Hawes attended Northeastern University and Aprill completed her Masters of Social Work at the University of Buffalo. The trio knew each other prior to establishing Food Connection; their children attended the same preschool. Kim, inspired to act by her research into food insecurity in the Charlotte area, posted a FaceBook status asking if anyone would be interesting in her idea of establishing an organization dedicated to distributing food to those in need in the Charlotte area. Godman and Hawes jumped on board, and with the help of other NC Food Connection chapters, opened the operation in Charlotte. Since coming to fruition, Food Connection has rescued and delivered over 100,00 fresh meals to people in need. Godman, Hawes, and Aprill are currently focused on bringing in new donors and expanding their operations to reach more people in the Charlotte area.

Tape Log

0:00:07Opening remarks and introductions
0:05:20How Mendy, Sue, and Kim became friends
0:07:18The history of Food Connection and the creation of the Charlotte chapter
0:13:24How Food Connection functions
0:15:22Kim shares story about Saint John’s and how Food Connection reevaluates its programs regularly
0:18:29Meals are delivered to recipients once a week
0:19:52Sanitation practices, how the food is packaged, how food is stored
0:25:16The clientele/areas in Charlotte Food Connection serves
0:28:17Volunteers, Food Connection’s community partners, food distribution network in Charlotte
0:35:02Food waste, how Food Connection reduces food waste
0:38:08Food Connection’s partners and connecting Charlotteans who want to help with other nonprofits
0:41:18Donor and recipient eligibility criteria
0:42:27Good Samaritan Law, legality of food distribution
0:45:29Resistance from donors and recipients about getting involved
0:48:20Spreading the word about Food Connection, concluding thoughts



>> [MUSIC]


>> Speaker 1: Today is Wednesday, March 27th, at 10 o’clock in the morning. My name is Rachel McMahon, and today I will be interviewing Mindy Goddman, Sue Paws, and April-

>> Speaker 2: Kim April.

>> Speaker 1: Kim April, okay, threw me for a loop there, I’m sorry.

>> Speaker 2: [LAUGH]

>> Speaker 1: All three are co-founders of the Charlotte Chapter of Food Connection.


This interview is part of the Queen’s Garden Oral History Project, a project collecting oral histories of local Charlotte teens involved in food distribution, urban agriculture, and community gardens in the Charlotte Area. Food Connection is a non-profit organization that collects surplus fresh meals from restaurants, caterers and institutions and community partners who feed those in need in order to reduce waste and ease the pain of immediate hunger.


Food Connection operates in Charlotte, North Carolina, Black Mountain, North Carolina, and Asheville, North Carolina. Thus far, Food Connection has rescued and delivered over 100,000 fresh meals, and delivered them to people in need. So first I’d like to begin with some basic questions. So if you could each go around and say your name, introduce yourself, where you grew up, how you got to Charlotte, how you got interested or involved in Food Connection.


>> Speaker 3: I’m Mindy Godwin. I’m actually from Spartanburg, South Carolina. After college I got a position doing Hospitality Management sales in Charlotte. So I moved here. Gosh, it’s been 19 years since I’ve been in Charlotte, so I feel like a Charlotte team now. Coming from sales, I actually stopped working when I had my first child.


So I have been out of that corporate environment, gosh, for 13 years. And this past September, we kinda came together and realized there was a need in the city and we just wanted to do something about it. So we started researching and digging. Kim actually spearheaded the idea.


And Sue and I just kind of jumped on board cuz it sounded awesome. And so we just want a connection, and we go into institutions of caterers, restaurants, and rescue their unused food. Previously they were just throwing this food in the trash. And then we did look at some numbers.


40% of all waste in the US is food waste, and that blows our mind. And we even dug deeper and realized one in three families in Mecklenburg County are food insecure. So it just seemed like a normal thing, why are we not doing this? Why is this not happening in the city besides Charlotte?


So we just decided to make it our mission and start rescuing food and getting it to those in need.

>> Speaker 1: Okay, who’s next?

>> Speaker 4: My name is Sue Hawes. I moved here from Boston in 2004. So I’ve been here for quite a while now. I was in the marketing world and my previous job before Food Connection was doing marketing for a nonprofit.


So I knew I wanted to stay in the nonprofit world. And when I heard about this opportunity, it was something I was very much interested in. I’ve helped at a lot of different nonprofits, volunteering in Charlotte, and I knew there was such a need. And because there is so much food waste, there is no reason for people in Charlotte to not have three meals a day.


>> Speaker 2: I am Kim April, and I am from Buffalo, New York, originally. I moved to Charlotte in 2001, actually September 2001, right before 9/11. I have a master’s in social work, so when I graduated from graduate school I just moved to Charlotte. No job yet, but I wanted to be in warmer weather basically.


And so yeah, so I did social work, counseling and case management with children for a long time, until I had my two children. And then I was a stay at home mom for a little while and then I started my own business doing sort of sensory play with children.


And then I’d just been searching for a few years. I was searching for my niche that I really want to be in. And my husband took a trip to California and came back and talked about how some of the restaurants there have these stickers in the window that said, we are a 0% food waste restaurant.


So he got back and told me about that, and that’s just what got me thinking about food waste. I honestly hadn’t really thought about it that much before, to tell you the truth. But I talked to Mindy and Sue. We also started doing research and the statistics were very sad.


So yeah, and now I just feel like this is what I’m supposed to be doing and my calling.

>> Speaker 1: That’s sweet. So how did the three of you get connected? Were you friends before Food Connection or how did this partnership kind of begin?

>> Speaker 4: Kind of a crazy story, but all of our kids went to the same preschool.


So I knew Kim in passing. We were acquaintances, I would say.

>> Speaker 2: Yeah.

>> Speaker 4: Mindy and I were friends because our littlests were boyfriend and girlfriend.

>> Speaker 2: At the age of two.

>> Speaker 4: At the age of two? So Mindy and I were friends, and Kim and Mindy were friends..


And one day Kim posted on Facebook about this great idea. And I had commented and was very serious, but I didn’t know if she I was serious at the time. Just saying Mindy and I wanted to help out with this. And then I think it was just a few days later we met.


We were doing some brainstorming of ideas, of what we could call this nonprofit. And I had come up with the name Food Connection. So I actually went online to purchase the domain, so we could start our own website, nonprofit, get our 501(c)(3) paperwork done. And we came across a place in Asheville called Food Connection.


So we figured why reinvent the wheel? We went up to Asheville to meet the director. Her name is Flory. And we had a great meeting. And we were aligned on the same mission. So that’s sort of how it took off. And so rather than spending time creating a new nonprofit, we wanted to just become our own chapter, so that we could just start helping people quicker and fulfilling the need quicker.



>> Speaker 1: That’s awesome.

>> Speaker 4: Yeah, it’s a pretty wild story.

>> Speaker 1: Yeah, Facebook, it’s interesting how social media connects us.

>> Speaker 4: Yes, yes, it is.

>> Speaker 2: It can be great and also not so great. Definitely good things.

>> Speaker 1: Really, though. So I sent Mindy a questionnaire prior to this interview, and on the sheet you answered that the Charlotte operation began in September 2018.


So roughly six to seven months ago. And I just have some basic questions about Food Connection in general. So is Food Connection specific to North Carolina or is it part of a larger nationwide organization?

>> Speaker 4: Well, it was created in Asheville. They created it in Asheville and then.


I wish I could give you more specifics, exactly when, but then they launched a Black Mountain Chapter. So when Sue had Googled the domain name, we just realized that there was already a Food Connection going on. And it wasn’t in Washington Or California was in our state two and a half three hours away, so it just made sense.


So right now it’s kinda Statewide thing, but I’m pretty sure the goal is to expand as big and as far away as we can get just because it makes sense.

>> Speaker 2: When we are doing our research, there are a lot of other organizations in the country, that aren’t Food Connection but are doing a similar thing.


So we have found other organizations out there in big cities mostly, that do the same kinda food recipe, but just Food Connection is just in North Carolina right now.

>> Speaker 1: Sure.

>> Speaker 2: [LAUGH]

>> Speaker 1: Does the Charlotte chapter have contact with the black mountain in Asheville chapters? Do you guys do regular meetings or events or what is that relationship like?


>> Speaker 3: We’re all very close, everyone we’ve met, they are just so sweet and they have the biggest hearts. So we’re actually going there next for a couple days for an event they’re putting on so we can support them. They have board meetings once a month that we try to be a part of with weekly calls, we’re very much a a big team.


>> Speaker 1: That’s great, and Mandy, you mentioned that one in three families in Mecklenburg County are food insecure? What, when you got interested in Food Connection and this need for food, this hunger, what was some of the research that you were looking at? Was it the Chutti Study for example, or how did you find this information?


Or what kind of information were you looking at?

>> Speaker 4: We weren’t specific to families or children, we were just doing research. For a couple of years a volunteer to Urban Ministries serving in the soup kitchen on Mondays. And when I realized that they serve 300 trades every day at lunch, and that’s not including all the other organizations, the rescue mission that serve.


That’s just a tiny population. So you know there was a need, because then you think about all the people who weren’t able to make it to these shelters. All of our churches used to do room in the Inn. And actually, you can just drive down the street, and you become aware of how much there is a need.


At my children’s school, I’ve also volunteered, teared up buildings elementary until they merged. On Fridays, they do these little red backpacks, and so these children go home with foods. And there’s Pop Tarts and crackers and a box of mac and cheese, which is great to fill their tummies, but it’s processed box, cans.


So it really isn’t the most nutritious. And when I went to second heart Harvest to pick up these bags one time, and I picked up 100 for this tiny school. And as you’re delivering them, you’re realizing that 50% of the class are getting these bags, it’s absolutely heartbreaking.


So we researched and did more digging, but you can just look around, and it is in your face. So those who are oblivious or aren’t aware just really aren’t looking up because anywhere you go in our city,there are and everyone has their different opinions. But there are people holding signs or you see them sleeping and these encampments under bridges, so there’s just hungry people.


Not to mention these communities that are food deserts and there are no grocery stores right within walking distance, or they’re taking three buses. So that was eye opening because I think sometimes we take for granted. I have a hair cedar and a public across the street half a mile from my house.


So of course that’s that ego-centric mindset that everyone has what I have, but they don’t. So when you started rally we read some articles about the food deserts, and realized how many different places and ways these families were having to go just to get groceries from a grocery store.


And that’s not good wholesome fresh produce for nutritious meals, they’re buying what they can afford. I’m sorry, I keep breaking up.

>> Speaker 1: No.

>> Speaker 4: But even when you think about if I go to the grocery store, I bought grapes one time. And a lot of times, I hate to say this out loud, but I will take some out cuz they rang it up as $17.00 for buying crisps.


That I’m forcing my kids to eat and whenever I saw that I go, good. But Masha I didn’t want to say it cuz you know what? Let me just put this back. So I paid for them but I can go to McDonald’s and get a double cheeseburger for a dollar.


And when you open that double cheeseburger all you see is grease and fat coming out, but it’s what people can afford. I can’t even get into the whole other topic of healthcare and how we’re taking care of our bodies and obesity. Cuz we don’t know until you’re in that position what you do to survive.


But there are families doing this,and so I think our mission is to get fresh, nutritious, good, viable food into these families and children’s tummies. And because why not? Eating an healthy nutritious meal shouldn’t determine how much you have in bank account. It’s a human right living in this world we should all have that right.


>> Speaker 1: My gosh no please the more the better I love it So,

>> Speaker 1: Food Connection receives surplus food from this healthy, nutritious food from food donors, and then delivers it to the community partners, who then transport it to the recipients, correct?

>> Speaker 3: Sort of, so we have several different donors, the bigger ones are large universities.


So Johnston and Wales for example we would pick up once a week from there, and we transport the food ourselves to other nonprofit in need. So we take it from A to B, which is really exciting to load our trunks and see how much food there is and what kind of food.


And then give it to the recipients who are, they’re so grateful and so thankful and it’s really something special to be a part of, it’s a great feeling.

>> Speaker 2: All our recipients for now thus far places where people actually resides. So we are taking directly to them .The non profit doesn’t to have then distribute it out another lace.


The people that we are feeding actually lives in that place where we are giving them the the food.

>> Speaker 1: Okay, so how much shelter-

>> Speaker 3: We have transition shelters, yes, the transition housing. Ken has some great stories of one of our recipients. We do take to Salvation Army Center of Hope, so the women and children shelter.


And that’s probably the largest one, but then we have a lot of smaller other partners. We actually recently started taking food to a place called Camille’s House. And it’s a house on Clayton road with just three bedrooms, and so she takes women and children, so we go from these small places to these huge places.


But Kim really should share about St. John’s Place, that’s amazing.

>> Speaker 2: So we have St. John’s, that’s a transitional regional housing with supportive housing communities. And I think there’s 34 small apartments there. And the people who live there just have a tiny refrigerator, they don’t have a full kitchen.


And so every other day of the week, they’re responsible for buying their own food, and making it on a very limited income usually. [COUGH]. So yeah, I go there, they know that I’m gonna arrive Thursdays at around 3 PM. And find out people start coming out of their apartments to help me get out of the car, and they’re so excited when they see the food.


They’re like, do you have the food? And they’ve just been so pleased with the food and they all helped me. And we’ve recently created a survey on Survey Monkey for recipients to make sure that everybody was enjoying the food and that it’s not going to waste there as well.


And the comment that I received from one of the social workers there was that day, that’s probably the only full meal the residents there eat all week, cuz they’re just doing what they can to survive the other days. So we saw that, and we thought, okay, let’s find [LAUGH] another donor that maybe we can bring them food twice a week instead of once a week, just because they’re so grateful and they really need it.


So, yeah.

>> Speaker 1: That’s sweet, that’s tough to see. It must be difficult sometimes. So for that location, you delivered food twice a week?

>> Speaker 2: Well, we talked about starting to do that if we can. We’re not in the position yet to be able to do that. So right now we’re still just once a week but we have a new donor that’s probably gonna be starting in the next couple of weeks.


So we might be able to start bringing them stuff twice a week. I don’t know. We’re just doing our best to distribute it around to [LAUGH] the most needy people. So we’re also focused on some more recipients that we might start with. It’s all a process, and we kind of reevaluate every month or so where the food is going.


Is that the best fit for the donor and the recipient? The kinds of food we’re getting, are those the kinds of things that those people will eat at the recipient location? Cuz sometimes the food, well actually, we’ve gotten all pretty standard food. But if you got something that people weren’t familiar with, that they didn’t grow up eating, we would just worry that that would then go to waste a little bit, too.


So we’re constantly reevaluating to see if everything is the best fit and if we can get the food there as quickly as possible so the locations have to match up and things like that.

>> Speaker 1: So do all the recipient receive meals once a week. Is that pretty standard?


>> Speaker 3: That’s pretty standard right now.

>> Speaker 1: Right now? I’m assuming there’s plans to expand.

>> Speaker 3: Yes, that is our goal. We tried to start small so that we could get a feel and figure out how it all works and who’s in need and who’s donating. So we’ve kinda gotten it down to the science at this point, with what we have.


So our next step is reaching out and grabbing more donors. And as we get more donors, we need more recipients, and sometimes it’s hard to find. In the beginning, we had a lot of resistance from recipients. No, we can’t take your food, we have X, Y, and Z standards.


And we just had to overcome those obstacles, and in same way we had resistance from donors. There’s lots that they were worried about, liability or somebody getting sick. So in the beginning, and we’re gonna start facing this the more we grow and the more we do is overcoming the obstacles of why people automatically say no.


But when you talk about food, sometimes it’s kind of tainted. It’s no, someone’s going to get sick. But you know what, if you’re hungry, you’re gonna eat the food. And if you’re willing to serve this food to your clients and to your students, then I’m pretty sure it’s good food.


As long as it’s prepared in good faith, we’re able to distribute it to others in need.

>> Speaker 1: And are there, I don’t want to say sanitation practices, but are there any measures to ensure that that food is prepared properly, or stored properly, or maintained so that it preserves the quality when it gets from A to B?


>> Speaker 4: Yeah, so at the university, if it’s food that’s been out in the buffet and it’s had a sneeze guard on it. And so the excess food is then stored in the cooler until we’re able to come pick it up, because we need to make sure everything is the right temperature before we take it and give it to the recipients.


So there are a few measures in place that have to be followed in order for us to be able to accept the food.

>> Speaker 2: It also has to be dated with the date that the food was prepared and labeled with what’s inside. And we try to have everything less than three days old, three days old or less.


So we don’t really have anything that would be a week old, let’s say. So usually if the university starts collecting the food on a Monday, we would pick it up on Wednesday or Thursday, so usually about an average of two or three days old.

>> Speaker 1: Right, and how was this food packaged once its,


>> Speaker 1: I guess obtained from these institutions. Cuz I know just from my experience of friendship trays, then again they prepare it themselves but they have special cartons and a sealing type of plastic machine. So what does that transport container look like?

>> Speaker 3: They kind of remind you of to catering trays.


So they’re these big foil pans with lids that are tightly sealed. So as long as it is behind a sneeze guard and kept warm, I wish I could tell you the certain temperature.

>> Speaker 1: That’s okay [LAUGH].

>> Speaker 3: As long as it goes straight from there to the pans to cold storage.


Now, they can’t take it from the hot bar and leave it on the counter for two hours, it’s kind of an immediate process. So it’s just actually large foil trays with tightly covered lids. And then it’s put in the cold storage and we just pick it up and we have to go from point A straight to B.


We can’t ride around with it in our car, take it home, sit in our fridge. It’s just kind of a smooth process.

>> Speaker 1: And where do you store that because, if I remember correctly, we’re meeting here, at Playbook because you guys don’t have a central location. So do you have freezers?


I’m assuming you have to have freezer space, somewhere. So where is that?

>> Speaker 3: Well, I’m sorry-

>> Speaker 2: No, we don’t, yet. That is one of our goals. But the donors store everything for us cuz they’re such large operations, large kitchens with the walk-in freezers and refrigerators. So they keep it stored there for us until we come get it.


And then they just kinda roll it out on one of those rolling carts, when they see us come in the kitchen. And so we haven’t had that yet, that we’ve had to have cold storage, but we do hope to get it. So that if a caterer for example has food leftover at 11 o’clock at night, and we can’t bring it somewhere right away, we can still take it and put it in our own storage, and then bring it the next day.


We’re not at that point yet but we hope to be, yeah.

>> Speaker 1: And so when the food is delivered, is it still in those large containers or are they individually packaged?

>> Speaker 3: No, they are still in the large containers. So institutions are taking it right from their cold storage, put it in our car, and most of our deliveries are within 10, 20 minutes.


So we’re not driving an hour away. And we take it straight there and they either put it in their cold storage or it’s served immediately, either reheated or the recipients or the residents come and take the food to their rooms to cook, warm up.

>> Speaker 2: Right, that’s the only, St. John’s Place, where I was talking about going on Thursdays.


We provided the social workers there up front with a lot of Tupperware. So what they do is we bring it to the office and immediately the social workers dish it out into individual tupperware containers and then basically the residents kind of line up at the door and they hand it out to them and then they have to bring their tupperware back the next Thursday so that it can be reused.


But aside from them, everybody else basically keeps it in the aluminum pans and then either just dishes it out from there, or whatever they, a lot of times supplement the meal they’re already making with some of our food, because we never know exactly how much we’re going to get.


So places like Salvation Army Center of Hope will take any amount we can give them. So they might already be making dinner that night and they might say, okay, we gave you a lot of macaroni and cheese, we can add this in to what we’re currently making or else refrigerate it for the next day and add them to the lunch the next day.


They all do it a little bit differently. So, yeah.

>> Speaker 1: So you never really know when you’re going to an institution or a caterer how much food you’re going to get? So, I’m just wondering how do you ensure that you distribute food amongst these different groups, I don’t wanna say equally, but to ensure that they’re all getting their meals if you’re kind of up in the air guessing what you’re going to get?


>> Speaker 2: So, when we start with a donor, we usually call it a trial period. Probably like a two week trial period. And they start seeing how much they’re gonna have on average. We usually say that in order for us to come pick it up it has to be more than 50 pounds.


So we can kinda can assess the general situation and then each week we come up with an average of how much they’ll give us. And then, if we need to switch the recipient to a different nonprofit based on how much that donor is giving us or the type of food, we’ll just reassess and switch it up.


But we wouldn’t come pick up like ten pounds, for example. And all the donors pretty much know that. They’re going to put everything into these aluminum pans for us. I would say our average maybe is, would you say 70 pounds? That’s what I was thinking, yes. Probably an average of 70 pounds.


And so like I said most of the recipients for now are happy with any amount of food. They’re not like, okay, it’s less than a hundred pounds, we don’t want it, because that can’t feed everybody. They’re just happy to get whatever we bring them usually.

>> Speaker 1: Right, and so, the food insecure clientele, how far reaching are these recipients?


Is it only in the south part of town or is it?

>> Speaker 4: We’re trying just to stay in Charlotte, we were picking up in Gastonia and Belmont. And actually, what worked out really well was we handed off the food from Belmont Abbey to a local woman, who is picking it up there for us and distributing close by.


Because we also want to be environmentally conscious of what we’re doing, and so we don’t want to be wasting all of this gas to drive 45 minutes away, if there’s somebody locally that can do that for us. So I would say we’re trying to stay within a 20-mile range.


>> Speaker 1: And do you have any trouble reaching any specific areas within that 20-mile range?

>> Speaker 4: We haven’t yet, no. And as we continue to grow will have more volunteers that will be helping to drive and distribute the food.

>> Speaker 1: Sorry I’m just looking at my questions.

>> Speaker 4: That’s okay, go ahead.


>> Speaker 1: Speaking of volunteers that I know I do have questions about that, but how many volunteers do you have? And how do you recruit volunteers or get the word out about Food Connection since you are a relatively new organization in this area?

>> Speaker 4: So we had a big launch party, was that three weeks ago now?


Three or four weeks ago. So when people entered we had a big signup sheet, asking if people would like to volunteer. So we had maybe 12 people sign up for that. We had a few people contact us through social media that they heard about us. So we’ve had one volunteer and they’ve been doing some research for us on new donors and creating a spreadsheet.


We had another volunteer who baked cookies for us for an event. There’s just so many ways that they can get involved and so we don’t wanna turn anybody away if they don’t feel like driving and dropping off food. So we can find something for everybody.

>> Speaker 1: Now do you have drivers on a regular basis?


>> Speaker 5: I just wanna say hi, thanks for all you guys are doing.

>> Speaker 4: Hi!

>> Speaker 5: I follow you on Facebook.

>> Speaker 4: Thank you!

>> Speaker 2: Thank you.

>> Speaker 5: See you.

>> Speaker 1: I guess that’s proof of the social media reach right there.

>> Speaker 2: So right now we we haven’t had a need for drivers yet because the three of us have been able to handle the pickups and deliveries so far.


But we are about to start using volunteers for that. So we are at that point, we have a volunteer list. And once we start, I believe with this new donor we are going to create, probably a assign a genius for people to plug in the days and times that we need food picked up and delivered and see if people can fill in some of those for us so that we can start focusing on more growth and things like that.


>> Speaker 1: That’s awesome.

>> Speaker 3: We also have on our website a link for anyone who wants to volunteer, so they can go and fill in the information and it automatically sends us an email. So then we can follow up with them. So there’s lots of ways to get involved.


>> Speaker 1: Great. That’s awesome. So the website, it displays the list of food donors, the recipients, the community partners, I think that the role of the donors and the recipients is kind of self explanatory but could you guys explain what the community partners do? Are they similar to donors or what does that mean?


>> Speaker 3: Some partners maybe donate financially, they allow us to use their space. There are so many other ways that they help. So they may not necessarily donate food but they support our mission and back us up.

>> Speaker 2: Yeah, so, two examples I can think of are Town Brewing, that’s where we had our launch party and they were great helping us get that started and letting us have a silent auction there.


And they were big supporters and then, what was the second one? And then Cataba Heights Baptist Church, that’s the organization that has taken over our pickup from Belmont Abbey College. So they’re picking up and delivering food to local organizations in Belmont or Gastonia. So we consider them a community partner cause they’re not a donor or a recipient.


But they’re helping us out.

>> Speaker 1: Right.

>> Speaker 2: Basically.

>> Speaker 4: Some of the other ones sort of help with networking. So there’s Share Charlotte. Which is a nonprofit. And they sort of get together and share other nonprofits, if they have event coming up they’ll share that, they offer different networking events, grant writing classes like that.


So also people that help us spread the word, that would be considered a community partner for us.

>> Speaker 1: Has it been hard to find those community partners since you guys are new?

>> Speaker 3: I’ve been honestly dumbfounded and amazed. There’s not been on person that I have mentioned, either personally or at these events or networking opportunities, where when you tell them what you’re doing, how can I support you?


What can I do? And a lot of people the first thing they say is, well I work full time but I would love to support you in any way because it makes sense. It’s just a genius idea, that again, we can’t really know until we’re already doing it.


So I haven’t encountered one person, when I explain to them what are our mission and our goal and how we’re doing this, when they were like, that’s never gonna work. What are you doing? Are you all crazy? So the community and those we have spoke with have been so supportive.


Just because it’s a good thing that should have already been happening here actually.

>> Speaker 1: It’s so nice to have that support.

>> Speaker 3: I heard an interesting fact the other day that they said if we took all of the food waste in America, so that 40%, and fed just the hungry with it, all of those hungry people would be getting 9,000 calories a day.


>> Speaker 1: That’s incredible.

>> Speaker 3: So there’s no reason for this to be happening.

>> Speaker 1: Well it’s interesting you say that because when I interviewed Lucy Carter Bush she said it’s not a problem of food, it’s the problem of distribution because we have plenty of food to go around but it’s getting it to those who need it.


>> Speaker 2: Right, exactly, yeah. So we always think, try to come to us before you do a canned goods drive or something like that. Try to see what’s already made out there, what’s already prepared that was gonna get thrown away.

>> Speaker 1: Yeah.

>> Speaker 2: By amazing chefs by the way [LAUGH]


>> Speaker 4: Yeah, this isn’t food we’re cooking.

>> Speaker 2: [LAUGH]

>> Speaker 4: We’re actually going on Monday to speak with the school just about little simple things they can do at home. Because it’s not even that you have to go rescue hundreds and hundreds of pounds of food, it can start at home.


So if you’re gonna have rice for dinner, you don’t need to prepare a whole box of rice. So whatever you’re gonna eat that night, if you don’t eat it you save your leftovers, and there are other things like planning your meals out ahead so that you don’t have food waste.


Even composting at home. There’s just so many little things we can start with.

>> Speaker 1: Right, and so I actually have I have a question regarding that.

>> Speaker 4: Sure.

>> Speaker 1: So since you brought it up I’m gonna go off track a little bit and we can come back to the partners.


But so the reducing waste part is a unique component to Food Connection. And you are going to a school on Monday. So the waste reduction, reduce part, is that something that you guys regularly advocate or educate or is there any sort of outreach to teach the public about proper food waste practices, I suppose?


>> Speaker 4: I would say our number one goal right now is to be helping to feed the hungry and collect the surplus food. I think we’re very passionate about teaching the younger generation about food waste and how we can help in the future. Right now there are just not enough hours in the day to do all of that.


But I would love to be speaking with more schools and educating people more on how we can reduce waste.

>> Speaker 2: I think an educational component is down the line somewhere once we’re a little bit more established, putting together something like that would be something we’d love to do.


For now we just occasionally have social media posts that will give tips, tips for reducing food waste at home or statistics, little things here and there, but right now it’s just social media. [LAUGH]

>> Speaker 4: And sometimes I think we’re even creating new habits in our own children, or and it’s just bringing awareness of things that you can do.


If we have leftovers my daughter and I make brown bag lunches, and we just go out and find them. There’s people everywhere who are hungry, on the streets, or even when you go out to dinner, get that half a cheeseburger and fries you didn’t eat and put it in a to go box.


There’s always someone who’s in need. And so if we start those practices with our kids, and it’s just gonna catch on, and that’s going to become their habit. They’re not gonna know any different. So when they’re our age, they’re gonna do the same. When it’s just starting that ball rolling.


>> Speaker 1: Right, right. So does Food Connection reduce waste in any other ways?

>> Speaker 1: On my questions I put such as environmentally friendly packaging, but that’s not. But what are the other ways that you guys strive to reduce food waste in your day to day operations?

>> Speaker 4: Well it’s funny you say that because that’s one thing that we have really started to think of and become more aware of.


Right now we’re transporting food and these big tin foil pans. And one of our donors had asked for us to use the metal ones, just wash them and bring them back. Because we’re trying to end food waste, but how many now aluminum tins are we throwing or recycle?


So it’s a cycle, and so we’re trying to tackle one battle, but there is so many other ways that maybe we’re creating waste in other ways that we’re trying to figure out and create a solution to correct.

>> Speaker 1: Awesome. Okay, I just have a couple other questions about the community partners.


I’m gonna go back to that now if that’s okay. So are you guys partnered with any other kind Meals on Wheels services in Charlotte or Mecklenburg County?

>> Speaker 2: Not yet, no, but we’re always reaching out to find more partners all the time. And so tonight actually we are participating in an event at Free Range Brewing that’s put on by the Food Policy Council.


And there will be some other organizations there who are tackling food waste in Charlotte. So we’re always looking for how we can all partner together. So I know there’s a woman there who has a mobile food truck, she rescues produce.

>> Speaker 1: Is it the Bulb?

>> Speaker 2: Yes.

>> Speaker 1: Yes, yeah.


>> Speaker 2: So I mean, we might try to talk to her about getting some of the food we get maybe onto her truck, where she would drive it to the food desert neighborhoods. We’re just always looking for how we can all kind of work together.

>> Speaker 1: Right, and so how can, you mentioned the website for volunteers, but how can those interested in donating, receiving your partnering, get involved with Food Connection?


>> Speaker 4: There’s a link for that too. Yes, we have links on the website for everything. Volunteers, donors, recipients, so they can go there and let us know. I guess a lot of our social media has really hit home [COUGH] sorry, and maybe a month ago I had an organization have a catering training event all week.


So they contacted me about picking up their food. [COUGH] sorry, I’m getting all choked up. And it was maybe total 200 pounds, it was a one time event, but because of social media they knew to reach out to us. So we just hope that we can start getting our name out there and more awareness so that when these opportunities happen they know who to contact, instead of throwing it in the trash.


And if we’re not able to pick it up, it’s kind of the point of our name, we wanna connect the dots. So contact us and we have a list, we’ll be happy to tell you. Where to take it, or how to get it to those people. So, yeah, our website has lots of good stuff.


>> Speaker 2: I do love that connection component to it, because we work with several people. And while we’re just focused on prepared foods, I’ve had people call and say, I have all this extra ice cream, I have all this extra milk and eggs, do you know anyone that can use it?


So we will have that person connect, so and so. Or we knew someone that had lots of extra fruits and vegetables so we put them in touch with the bulb. And so even though it’s not part of our mission because it’s not prepared foods, we love being able to connect other people in the community.


>> Speaker 1: I think that really speaks to the strength of the Charlotte community involved in food distribution that you touched on a little bit ago Mandy. The support seems like it’s really there and that there’s a lot of passionate people in this area about getting food to those who need it most.


>> Speaker 2: Yeah, definitely. And just the size of our city with the number of restaurants, universities, catering companies, there’s just so much we can be doing.

>> Speaker 1: Right. And is there any eligibility criteria for donors or recipients?

>> Speaker 2: There is no eligibility criteria for recipients. We definitely don’t want anything to hold anybody back and we don’t want the food to go to waste.


So we don’t have anything, you have to have below low a certain income level. No, there’s nothing like that and for donors it’s just basically can you package it the way we need to packaged? Can we get more than 50 pounds per week on average? Is the kitchen staff on board with doing it all for us?


And we weigh the food and then provide the donors with how many pounds they’ve donated for tax purposes. So sometimes it’s good if they have a scale they can weigh the food on. It’s not a criteria, we can weigh it ourselves too. But we like to just go in and talk to the kitchen staff and make sure everybody’s on board and they understand the procedures.


They understand the labeling criteria and stuff like that. I’m going to switch gears on you guys, looking at the website, there’s mention of a Good Samaritan law.

>> Speaker 1: So I was wondering if you could tell me a little bit more about the Good Samaritan law and kind of the legal aspects of food distribution?


>> Speaker 3: So in 1996, Bill Clinton passed the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Act. And this is to protect restaurant’s caterers, the donors in our case, from any liability. So as long as they prepare their food in a clean environment in good faith, then it can go to feed those in need.


And as long as again, it’s prepared in good faith. And because of health regulations and the health department, all these places are or they’re gonna get shut down. So we really couldn’t go into Kim’s house and take 25 pounds of her fried chicken to someone because just it’s not up to code.


So thankfully, because of that legislation as long as it’s prepared in good faith then it can go to feed those in need. But now we do have to take it straight from point A to B. And that’s the only really regulation.

>> Speaker 1: Great.

>> Speaker 3: Or, I guess, protection for those companies, which are some of the obstacles because, in their mind, it’s, no, it’s a liability.


So we just kinda have to educate them and inform them that it’s okay. You’re feeding hungry people and they’re hungry.

>> Speaker 1: Is that some of the resistance that you receive from donors that you mentioned earlier?

>> Speaker 2: Yes, there are various scared of liability.

>> Speaker 1: Really?

>> Speaker 2: I mean, it’s understandable.


>> Speaker 3: Absolutely.

>> Speaker 2: There are a lot of [LAUGH] lawsuits out there. So we just again have to talk to them about that and make them feel comfortable with what they’re doing. And then we like to provide updates with where the food is going to. Some stories about how the food was received, just to make them feel more comfortable.


And Johnson & Wales University has asked for an update on the amount of pounds donated per month. So that makes them feel good, and they like to report that.

>> Speaker 2: But yeah [LAUGH].

>> Speaker 4: We’re really trying to give donors, there’s no reason for them to say no. It’s really a win-win cuz once we take that food off their hands, we’re taking on the liability and it’s tax right off for them.


So there’s really, we are sometimes confused as why there is pushback. And I do think that the past has sort of scared people little bit away from it. And I think that’s why we do have so much more food waste because of lawsuits that have happened in the past.


But if they’re going through us, it’s really a win-win and we’re trying to make it as easy as possible for them.

>> Speaker 1: What’s some of the resistance that you receive from the recipients?

>> Speaker 4: We’ve had a couple who go back but we have these standards and it has to be x, y and z.


But I just don’t think they’re quite aware of what we are bringing. We try to show pictures but literally until they get their first delivery they just have no idea. They just can’t comprehend that this is what we are doing. So and I don’t wanna name names but yeah, we’ve had a couple who just, they have enough, but you know they don’t.


But again, it kinda goes back to what we were saying about our partners and working with other nonprofits. We have tried, in the beginning we worked with some larger nonprofits who feed the hungry and we came to realize they do have funding and they are getting resources. So our mission is to kinda get those underneath that scale.


Those who maybe aren’t aware, or don’t have funding, or they’re doing it themselves. The supportive housing communities are a great example, a couple of the other ones that we picked up. They’re not getting large checks from all these corporate sponsors and donors to prepare the food, it’s them on their own.


So there are so many wonderful nonprofits who do feed the hungry. And if we need to, we can help supplement. But they’re up and rolling, they’re well-oiled machines. So we like to find the one or two single guys who really are hungry and maybe don’t have any support or funding coming in.


>> Speaker 1: Right.

>> Speaker 3: Yeah, I think maybe the recipients have a picture in their head maybe of soggy sandwiches or leftover, stale subs or something like that. So I think until they see what it is that we’re bringing to them, it’s hard for them to say yes and try to figure out what they’re gonna do with this food every week.


One of our new recipients is a homeless shelter for teenagers. And so they feed them lunch every day. And there are some organizations that volunteer to bring in lunch. But if no one has volunteered for that day, the staff actually cooks at home to bring food in. And these are social workers, so these are people that are not making a lot of money, probably don’t have the time to be cooking for these teenagers.


But they do it because they love them. And so we have been bringing in barbecue for them weekly. And I’m hoping to bring in more food to them so maybe two or three times a week. Because it’s amazing what they’re doing and they don’t get a lot funding.


So we don’t want people to be using their own money and their paycheck To feed these people that they’re working with.

>> Speaker 1: Right, that is difficult. So, I told Mandy it would be a 45-minute interview and we’re approaching actually 48 minutes. So in respect for y-all’s time, because I know you’re very busy woman, I just have some concluding questions.


What would like the public to know about Food Connection that you think they don’t know, or is a misconception?

>> Speaker 2: That’s a good question. Yeah [LAUGH]

>> Speaker 3: Good, we’re here, maybe that’s just creating awareness that there is an organization. That’s willing to rescue food and feed those in need, because again, it hasn’t happened here.


So people are oblivious that it’s going on, I would just say maybe letting them know we are here, give us a call.

>> Speaker 4: Yeah, if they attend an event, or go to a restaurant. Or have something catered at their own home, just that they can call us with excess food.


I had a friend the other day that was working on a photoshoot and they had a ton of leftover food. And she called us and I was so glad she did, because the people that were also working on the set. Were like, I’d love to have your card when we have excess food from these other events.


So just helping spread the word about what we’re doing, agreed?

>> Speaker 1: Agreed, [LAUGH] nothing further to add. And lastly is there anything else I should have asked you or sweet memories you’d like to tell me? Or anything in general, gonna kinda open the floor for concluding thoughts from you.


>> Speaker 3: I think when we first started talking about this idea, we had no idea how quickly it would take off. Like the number of donors and recipients. And everybody we’ve met, especially in the nonprofit world, they have the biggest hearts. And I’ve just loved meeting everyone, we just have the best conversations.


And it really gives you a lot of hope for our community that there are so many people out there trying to do great things. So it’s made me love Charlotte even more which has been a really, really cool part of what we’re doing.

>> Speaker 2: Yeah, I will say I realized and I’m a news junkie, and sometimes I have to walk away because it makes my blood pressure rise.


Sometimes when we get so zoomed in and only hear what they’re feeding us. You think the world is going to hell in a handbasket. But I’ve realized, actually getting out and talking to people and helping those and see in the love and passion. There’s a lot of good in this world, you know?


So I’ve actually turned off the news a lot, because I would rather an encounter and meet these people. And see the good that is spreading, lots of people out there being the change they wanna see. But sometimes you don’t hear their stories. So it’s actually given me more positive vibes about my children future, about our future.


Where we’re going, and how we get here. That’s so exactly true, I feel like I was starting to get hopeless. Yes, for we did that I was getting in a bad mood after reading the news. And I also similarly have turned off the news a little bit more and like this is the thing to do.


Get out there and do something to make the world a better place as opposed to just reading all the bad things that are happening. [LAUGH] and getting angry about them from your own health [LAUGH] like I was. But yeah, I agree, I mean I get chills during these meetings with these amazing people.


The world is a great place, I feel so much hope now, yeah, just what they said.

>> Speaker 4: And you always hear, I mean you have just heard it a few years back. Is that instead of judging or being quick to descend on people, I realize we all have a story to tell, if we will only listen.


And I think once you hear and know other stories, it makes you love them so much deeper. So it’s like Kim, and I’m very emotional, so I try to keep it in check. But sometimes you’re talking to these, and hearing these stories and my eyes are welling up.


And I’m thinking be professional, be professional, but it’s like it just gives you more hope, there is so much good.

>> Speaker 1: That’s one thing I can say from this class and interviewing the people that I have, like Lucy Bush Carter. She, in her interview, tugging at my heartstrings.


She was saying we have more responsibility and it’s our duty to feed these people. Because there’s plenty of food and it’s getting it to them, and you can’t just watch your neighbor suffer. And so getting to know people like you guys, I agree with the news, it’s very sad.


But it is reassuring to know that there’s people like you guys out there.

>> Speaker 2: I have a good story about meeting Lucy Bush Carter, that I was wearing that T-shirt, that Food Connection T-shirt. And I was waiting for my daughter to get out of theatre class at ImaginOn, and I guess she was sitting behind me.


So I just heard somebody say Food Connection, what is that, can you tell me about it? So I walked over to her table and started telling her, she’s like, well, I’m kinda in that business too. And I was like, really, where do you work? And she said Friendship Trays, so we started chatting, exchanged cards.


And it was just so funny, it was just because I basically forgot to change.

>> Speaker 4: [LAUGH]

>> Speaker 2: We had to wear the T-shirt earlier in the day for something, and I would normally change, actually. But it was just meant to be, because it was seven o’clock at night and I was still wearing the T-shirt, and I was just, hi, [LAUGH].


It just was just a really cool meant to be kinda moment.

>> Speaker 1: Well, thank you guys so much for sitting down and talking to me, you guys have been such a pleasure.

>> Speaker 2: Thank you, I enjoyed that. Me, too.

>> Speaker 1: So much fun.

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