March & April, 2023

What Are We Doing?

In the critically unacclaimed 2000 movie Miss Congeniality, William Shatner, playing a host of the Miss America contest, asks Miss Rhode Island to describe her perfect date. After a thoughtful pause, she says:

"That's a difficult one. I'd have to say April 25. Not too hot, not too

cold...all you need is a light jacket."

The thing is, she is not wrong. Miss Rhode Island comes off as ditsy, but in another world, the uber-logical Spock may have replied with the same answer.

What has all that to do with the Pantry? Not much, admittedly, except I am writing this on April 25, wearing my own favorite attire for a not-too-hot, not-too-cold day: a black sweatshirt with the words "I literally do not know what I'm doing" neatly embroidered in white.

When the weather cooperates, I wear this item as often as possible - partly to get out ahead of what many of you are already thinking, but mainly because it is more open to interpretation than might first appear - much like the question asked of Miss Rhode Island. Yes, the sweatshirt certainly reflects my general lack of expertise in day-to-day food pantry management, but it also hints at a deeper uncertainty: are all our efforts even worthwhile?

At first blush, the mission of the pantry - and why we all show up to volunteer there - is unassailable: to provide food to those in need.

So far, so good. But let me address the elephant in the room. We also help those who are not in need. And that's where the doubts begin to creep in. Before the pandemic, we commonly served 40 or 50 folks at a distribution. Today, we often serve over 300 - and are providing far more food to each guest. The numbers show no sign of any meaningful reduction. Have we created a monster of dependency?

It's a question I suspect most of us think about from time to time, and from there, it is a short bus ride back to "I literally do not know what I'm doing."

When the mad rush of each distribution is over, and we are dragging all our stuff back into the pantry, there are nearly always a few latecomers. It is difficult to know what to do with these folks, so I usually ask them a simple question: Do you have food in your house? ¿Tienes comida en tu casa? Some say yes, and I can point to the sign by our door that shows our opening times. Others say no, and sometimes you can see in their eyes that they mean it. In that moment, there is no greater clarity of purpose than to say "hold on, un momento" and gather some food for them. Their relief is palpable. Sometimes there are tears. It doesn't seem to matter anymore that we may have given out food to a handful of folks who didn't need it. In that moment, I literally do know what we are doing.

Where Are We Going?

For a long time now, it has been clear that our present location - or more precisely the building itself - is not suitable for the size of our operations. We need more space.

As many of you now know, we MAY have found another location - a stone's throw from Terrace Place. But it is still very early days. The new building will require a lot of work to meet our needs. And moving may also require significant changes in our current operating model.

For the moment, many options remain on the table, including staying where we are but doing things differently. "Where are we going?" is another ambiguous question, involving not only geography but also strategic direction. In the coming months, I am confident a clearer future will emerge. In the meantime, I will continue to share as much information as I can. Along the way, the input of every volunteer is important and welcome. So please let me know your thoughts. We will make this journey together, as we always have.

Leaning Towers

Squeezing each of our twice-weekly deliveries from Connecticut Foodshare into the pantry can be a major engineering challenge. "Building up" is often the only architectural option.

It turns out that boxes of organic broccoli do not make for ideal high-rise construction material. And boxes of tangerines aren't much better. Luckily, brave volunteer Eileen Thorn is always ready to risk life and limb to provide a little extra structural support.

T-Shirt Design Competition!

Soon, the weather will be too warm even for a light jacket, so we need to get busy designing the 2023 Commemorative Daily Bread T-Shirt. Last year's effort (pictured above) was the subject of extensive "constructive criticism." So for this year, I'm throwing the job open to everyone. Designs must be submitted by May 15, ideally using an online tool such as the one here. The winner will get a free T-Shirt. Then again, so will everyone else. But think of the bragging rights! So, have at it - and let me know if you need any artwork (such as the Daily Bread logo) to incorporate into your design.

News Bites

Health Fair

Earlier this month, Danbury had its first Health Fair, and Daily Bread was there to let everyone know about the healthy food options we always have on hand at the pantry. Instead of pens, keychains and the usual tchotchkes available from exhibitors, we gave away pineapples, oranges and...cookies. Because eating healthy doesn't mean you can't have the occasional treat.

Special thanks to Liz Sanchez, Maria Johnson and Julie Johnson for giving up their Saturday to staff our table.

Take a Hike!

If you don't meet your steps goal working at the pantry (hard to believe), then there's always the Daily Bread Hiking Club.

Here Michael Ward, Pattie Thompson, Marybeth Alpuche, Norma Lopez-Burton, Elizabeth Day and Claudia Urvina pause for a photo-op deep in the woods of a still leafless Connecticut. I'm told lunch was also involved, which makes the whole thing seem a lot more attractive.

Grants (Pt. 1)

As has been noted many times before, calling out specific grants from our many generous individual and institutional donors is a dangerous game. Every grant, and every donation, is a precious gift and helps make the work we do possible.

But just because we cannot mention every grant here does not mean we shouldn't mention any.

Pictured above is yours truly receiving an eye-popping sum from Alex Karsanidi, Exalted Ruler of Danbury Elks Lodge #120.

Thank you to Alex and everyone else at that fine organization.

Grants (Pt. 2)

We'll hopefully have more details to share in the next Newsletter, but in a very competitive grant process, we have been awarded a game-changing amount of money to boost our operating capabilities. And do something for the planet!

What could it be? Let's just say U-Haul isn't gonna be very happy about it, but Eversource might.

A World Record

One week in April, we distributed nearly 1,800 pounds of Cuties. Which probably is a world record for distributing Cuties out of a parking lot in Danbury.

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