July & August, 2023

A Little Learning

What do you need to know to work at the Pantry? Thankfully, not much. But you do need to know something, so let's get to it!

Lesson 1: Civil Rights

All Daily Bread volunteers who have contact with our guests must review a federally mandated civil rights training course each year. The training materials, in English and Spanish, are available in the Pantry and online here.

The official training is monumentally boring, so every year I feel compelled to put my spin on what I think the purpose of this requirement is - and why it is so important to the mission of Daily Bread.

On my very first trip to America - I was a callow 20-year-old - the very first words spoken to me by a U.S. government employee were "Is there something wrong with your pattern recognition?" I had inadvertently stepped over the "wait" line at immigration. Even as a native English speaker, it took me several seconds to process what he meant, especially because I was also processing the fact that this angry-looking man held sway over my entry into the country.

What, you might be thinking, does this have to do with civil rights, or Daily Bread? Based on my brief observation, the immigration officer was mean to everyone, so I could hardly claim I was being discriminated against. And anyway, he was technically right. I had, quite literally, stepped over the line.

Well, there are a couple of things. First, how easy it is to feel vulnerable and hard done by in any situation involving a power imbalance, especially if it seems that the power can be exercised arbitrarily. Second, how memorable first impressions can be. "You never get a second chance to make a first impression" was a slogan that always resonated with me, and not just because I had a terrible dandruff problem well into adulthood.

Picking up food at the Pantry is not quite the same as gaining entry to a new country, but there is a power imbalance - we have food, our guests do not - and for a whole bunch of reasons, it is possible for our guests to not understand, or not follow, our policies and procedures. Compounding this, and unlike in my little anecdote, there IS potential for discrimination, actual, unintentional and perceived.

So, what do we do? Read the training materials for sure, but just being nice goes an awfully long way. And bring our best selves to the Pantry. The version we would like to be remembered by.

One thing is for sure. We have the first impression thing nailed. Our registration team embodies everything that is great about Daily Bread - welcoming, inclusive, kind, friendly...and dandruff-free.

Lesson 2: Food Safety

The application and interpretation of civil rights can be controversial, but I think we can all agree that food poisoning is not a good thing. It is tempting to illustrate the importance of this topic with more personal stories, but there likely is no need - you probably have your own, equally horrific, tales. In the unlikely event you do not, I did consider including a link to the Bridal Shop scene in the 2011 movie Bridesmaids. But this is a family Newsletter, so if that scene isn't already living rent-free in your head, you will have to Google it.

Food safety is mostly common sense, but it is not all common sense. Please read the Food Safety Manual in the Pantry, or click on the link here. Then test your knowledge with the quiz here.

While reviewing the material, keep in mind that we all have different personal standards. "If in doubt, throw it out" is a good mantra ("I'd eat it" is not), but if you find yourself throwing out way more food than other volunteers, get a second, or even third opinion. One thing about Daily Bread volunteers - they are gonna have an opinion.

Lesson 3: Gravity

Gravity plays a very important role at the Pantry, and a largely unhelpful one. Gravity makes many things difficult to carry, and gravity makes round objects, like onions, roll down The Slope really quickly. But what if we could change gravity? We can! We just need to expand the search area for our new location slightly. A 50lb bag of potatoes is really heavy here on Earth, but on the moon, it weighs only 8.27 pounds! Which makes the moon a really attractive option for our new home. The moon also offers ample parking and, reportedly, an almost unlimited supply of green cheese (note to self, check the Food Safety Manual on this).

Setting up on the moon does come with some drawbacks, but given our luck finding a new place so far, it's looking more attractive by the minute.

That might not answer all your questions about gravity, but we must move on.

Lesson 4: British Idioms

"You can't fit a quart into a pint pot" used to be quite a common expression in England. You do still hear it, although it is now outlawed because of the metric system. No explanation is really needed as to its meaning, or its relevance to our chronically space-constrained Pantry.

Anyways, while still legal to say in the U.S. (thank you, First Amendment!), the negativity it embodies is clearly inapplicable in the optimistic New World. By employing non-Newtonian physics, and also pushing really hard, we fit a quart into a pint pot at every truck unloading. I would love to explain further, but we have run out of time today.

Class dismissed.

Back To School, Literally

Over the summer, we were sooooo fortunate to have these amazing high schoolers help at just about every distribution. Their energy, good nature and can-do attitude lifted the spirits of everyone, fellow volunteers and guests alike.

Sadly, despite our extensive academic curriculum (see above), and cake (see below), we were not able to persuade them to quit "regular" school and stay on at the Pantry forever. But thank you Cody, Jack, Izzah, and Eric. You are truly awesome sauce, and you will all go far.

Summer's Lease

Summer's lease hath all too short a date, and it's just about up. But we made the best of it by having a Wear-Your-Daily Bread T-Shirt-To-Work-Day, and throwing in some pizza and sandwiches for an impromptu after-distribution party. Also on the agenda was a Pink Shoelaces Dance Competition, but by the time all the food was scarfed, no-one really felt up to it. Next year!

Bid Me Discourse, I Will Enchant Thine Ear

No good deed goes unpunished! Some wonderful folks from Ridgefield Baptist Church stopped by one Sunday in July with a great food donation - only to be trapped in the Pantry by a torrential downpour. Quite literally a captive audience. Here's a photo taken when I eventually stopped talking, which might account for the smiles.

News Bites

New Equipment 1

Thanks to a generous grant from Newtown Savings Bank, we recently took delivery of a new freezer. Our regualr truck unloading crew did a masterful job getting it into the Pantry, off the delivery pallet, and up and running.

Here, James Fleming and Chip Walsh risk life and limb to get the thing installed.

New Equipment 2 & 3

Little did the truck unloading team know, but the new in-Pantry freezer was just a warm-up act, to use a wildly inappropriate metaphor. Over at 76 Triangle Street, we needed to get our new three-door freezer and three-door refrigerator installed. A trivial task on the moon, but here on earth, these babies were HEAVY.

With grit, enthusiasm and ingenuity, the job got done. Thank you Jay, Ken, Mark, Oliver, Allyn, Chip, James and any one else who helped I have forgotten.

Help Wanted 1

Do you like to stand outside the grocery store for an hour or two and shake down unsuspecting shoppers for money and/or food? Of course you do! So sign up to help on September 9 at "our" Stop & Shop (72 Newtown Road, Danbury). This is a BIG event, with all area Stop & Shops involved, and NBC doing all-day publicity. C'mon, you know you want to. Sign up spots are limited, so hit reply to this email RIGHT NOW and I'm sure we can still squeeze you in.

Help Wanted 2

OK, I am a little more vague on this one, and NOT because I have been sampling the product. September 28 - 30, we are partnering with The Botanist (105 Mill Plain Road) to help raise awareness about food insecurity in Danbury. and what we are doing about it.

If you are available to help on any of those days, but especially Saturday (the 30th), let me know.

And Finally...Data Corner

One of the most common questions I get asked is "Where Does All This Food Come From?" I've answered this inquiry in previous Newsletters, but since the sources change over time, and newer volunteers may not have perused the entire Newsletter archive, here's a rough and ready breakdown, averaged over 2023 YTD.

203-826-8252 | [email protected] | dailybreadfoodpantry.com

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