A man in the US has built his own mini food bank on his lawn, opening it up to his local community.
The response from locals has been to provide food and toiletries for those in need.
Roman Espinoza lives in Watertown, New York. He decided to take a class on human services at the community college nearby, and learned there that there was a food cupboard available for students. His coursemates were often struggling to get enough to eat, and had to resort to using the food cupboard in order to make it through the week. While studying to better their lives, they weren’t able to learn enough to get by.
He said: "I thought, 'Man, these adults that are spending time taking classes can't eat every day. '"
That triggered a thought in him. Rather than allowing his fellow students to suffer, he wanted to see if there was something he could do about it. That extended not only to people at the college, but also people in his local community who might be less well-off. He decided to open a blessing box on his own front lawn. He built a miniature food cupboard and started to stock it up with unwanted items.
"Whether you're taking or giving, you can just go to the blessing box," Mr Espinoza explained. "There's not a lock on it — it's open 24 hours a day, seven days a week."
Anyone with food careers already knows about the increasing need for food banks, particularly here in the UK. In the US, however, it appears that the demand is also growing.
Espinoza put in the first bits of food, but since then he says he has not need to contribute much. The community has stepped in instead to offer their own items.
"The box itself is for the community and it's sustained by the community," he said. "The community, the neighbourhood and my block have been really supportive."
Not just food
The blessing box is not just a food cupboard, but also provides some of the other essentials of life. It includes toiletries such as shampoo, toothpaste, and soap – things that may go lacking from the weekly shop if money is tight.
Some of the other Watertown residents have now asked Espinoza to build blessing boxes which they can put outside their own homes. His skill in creating the box has put him in popular demand as the idea spreads around the area to others who want to help out.
"I've gotten a couple of requests from people around town for boxes for their property," he said. "With any luck, we'll have a few around town where people can be made aware of them and make use of them. Watertown, New York, in the next five years, could be known as the city of blessing boxes."
People with food jobs on any level can help to contribute to food banks and food cupboards. There are already a large number operating around the UK, and with the difficulty of Brexit looming, many low-income families are worried about how they will survive an economic downturn.
The important thing is the donation of food which is fit for consumption. When food is thrown out for a number of reasons – such as overordering, use by dates, unusual shapes and sizes, and so on – this contributes to food waste on a grand scale. The efforts facing supermarkets, retail chains, and manufacturers now are finding ways to distribute that food to people in need, cutting down on waste at no extra cost to any parties involved.
Search for FMCG Jobs here