Katie Vernace dropping off her weekly donation to Bread of Life.
Rye Answers the Rallying Cry to Feed the Hungry
Bread of Life, the Rye-based food rescue organization, used to rely on supermarkets to provide them with food for food pantries, homeless shelters, and soup kitchens. Suddenly, in mid-March, the grocery store shelves were bare as families stocked up before the quarantine.
“Managers who used to give us tons of food at the end of the day now told us they had none to give,” said Dr. Sherri Falco, who co-founded Bread of Life with her husband, Pastor Pasquale Falco. “An unintended consequence of all the hoarding was that we no longer had an important food source for families who were hurting the most,” said Falco. “People who were living on the edge before this were pushed over it, and we literally had to reinvent ourselves overnight.”
Soon after Sue Wexler, Director of Community Outreach, posted an urgent plea for donations of non-perishable items on the Rye Moms Facebook page, “the floodgates opened up and the whole community came together to help.”
Danielle Colen partnered with fellow Rye moms, Hayley Nivelle and Loralynn Katsikas, to launch a five-week neighborhood food drive collecting funds to purchase provisions from Baldor Foods and Pound Ridge Organics, a co-op of local farms. On top of that, Baldor generously donated additional produce including cases of broccoli, cauliflower, and 160 pounds of bananas.
When the food arrives in bulk packages, Colen, Nivelle, and Katsikas enlist their families and friends to break down the containers and repackage the food into family-sized containers. Through their efforts, an Amish farmer from upstate New York delivered a truckload of 180 gallons of fresh-from-the-farm milk. The farmer was grateful for the business and the recipients of the milk were equally happy to receive his bounty.
Prior to Covid–19, Bread of Life served 400 families at its on-site food pantry in Rye every two weeks, now they provide food for 700 families (and growing).
Christ’s Church, Rye Community Synagogue, Rye Presbyterian Church, and Trinity Church in Greenwich became actively involved by sponsoring food drives and reaching out to their congregants for donations of food and funds to Bread of Life. “Their level of commitment was astonishing with clergy making heartfelt appeals to their members to set up food bins for drop offs and then personally dropping off the food,” said Wexler.
Rye retail shops have been deeply impacted by the shutdown, yet Lola owner Caroline Schneider donated 10% of the proceeds from her Mother’s Day promotion. She also contributed boxes of clothes to bring to the homeless shelters that Bread of Life serves. And Angela Guitard of Angela’s, and her sister-in-law, a talented seamstress, made fashionable masks and donated 100% of the proceeds. The masks immediately sold out, and Angela’s replenished the stock.
A few longtime volunteers have stepped up their efforts to heroic levels.
Eniko Keleman has been at every one of the on-site food pantry days stocking the shelves, handing out food in good weather and bad. She and others pick up food from Goldberg’s Rockin Bagels, Valtori, Al Dente, and Dig–Inn, longtime contributors to Bread of Life.
Every week, Katie Vernace includes food for Bread of Life in her Fresh Direct order and then drops off cases of Chobani yogurt and fresh fruit along with milk and eggs. “Before ordering, Katie checks in with us to see what our food needs are,” said Wexler.
Rye’s Chinese–American community and Molly Howson donated masks and gloves to keep volunteers safe. The Sew Happy Rye Mask project reached out to provide masks to some of the vulnerable populations the organization serves.
“I’ve never seen such outpouring of love and compassion to help others in difficult times,” said Falco. “It would be impossible to list all of the names of everyone who has played a part in helping us feed the hungry in our community. Therefore, we honor all the unsung heroes who have picked up or delivered food or donated financially so we can continue to operate. Their contributions are invaluable. We thank God for all of them.”
- Rachel Breinin