'Man in a van' rescues 140K pounds of food for Danbury Families

CAFCA | February 21, 2018 |

 When a struggling Danbury family is able to serve some healthy vegetables with their dinner, they may have Mike Greene to thank. The broccoli, carrots, or cucumbers on their forks may have been sitting on a pallet at Costco a few hours earlier, waiting for Greene to pick them up. For Greene, rescuing food is a passion that he lives daily. For the past five months, he's been driving 62 miles every weekday, picking up food at local grocery stores and delivering it to Danbury-area food pantries. The pantries all work together as part of the Danbury Food Collaborative (DFC), helping feed hungry families and individuals who struggle to afford food.

So far, he's devoted 82 days to this project, traveling 5,084 miles around Greater Danbury and rescuing 138,673 pounds of good, fresh food. He spends 15 to 20 hours each week, driving 62 miles a day—all as a volunteer. To his supporters on the DFC, this project has become affectionately known as the "Man in a Van."A Danbury resident, Greene is the former coordinator of the food pantry for Danbury's Interfaith AIDS Ministry—known as "The Living Pantry"—and continues to work there part-time."I've seen firsthand the difference rescued food can make for people who are struggling or who have health issues," Greene said. "It just makes no sense for perfectly good food that the stores can't sell to go in the trash bin."

Just when new grocery stores were coming on board with the DFC to make food donations, the Connecticut Food Bank could no longer fund a weekly driver to come from its headquarters in Wallingford to pick up and deliver food in the greater Danbury area. Greene refused to let the food go to waste and stepped in.
The Connecticut Food Bank supports his efforts by providing him with a food delivery van. United Way of Western Connecticut (UWWC), which is the collaborative sponsor of the DFC, covers the van's insurance and gas. That support has kept him going to date, enabling him to rescue food from Costco, BJs, Big Y, ShopRite and other stores and deliver it to the food pantries operated by the Community Action Agency of Western Connecticut (CAAWC), Jericho Partnership, Victory Christian Center, and the Bethel Community Food Pantry.But rescuing 1,700 pounds of food a day isn't easy. Greene can't keep going indefinitely, and even a volunteer needs a break. The plan is for the DFC to formalize and sustain this effort by hiring a driver. UWWC, CAAWC, Jericho Partnership, and the Bethel Community Food Pantry are all contributing some funds to continue the project, but more funding is needed to close the gap.To keep the "Man in a Van" project going, the DFC has set up a GoFundMe page with a goal of $7,000. These funds will enable the project to rescue more than 400,000 pounds of food per year and make a difference in the lives of hundreds of residents in the greater Danbury area who benefit from having healthy, fresh food available to them.

Visithttps://www.gofundme.com/danburyfoodrescue to support this need today.The ultimate goal for Greene and the DFC is to have a central storage facility for the Danbury area, with large refrigerator and freezer capacity so that all donated food can be delivered and sorted there. This would allow the pantries to pick up at the central location and eliminate the need for a delivery person to drive hundreds of miles per week.In the meantime, the "Man in a Van" will continue with the support of the DFC and Danbury-area residents who choose to support his work through the GoFundMe page athttps://www.gofundme.com/danburyfoodrescueFor information about the "Man in a Van" project and how you can support the DFC's food rescue efforts, call Caroline LaFleur at United Way of Western Connecticut at 203-297-6307 or email caroline.lafleur@uwwesternct.org.