A 26-foot high food truck for $ 55,000 is expected to be key to fighting food insecurity locally and will hit the streets in Stafford as soon as warmer weather arrives.
Stafford Food Security acquired the new truck after four sponsors helped pay $ 10,000 each for the vehicle, which had an 18-foot kitchen.
“The truck is going to be a big game changer,” said Stafford Food Security executive director Tim White, who founded the nonprofit.
The truck’s sponsors include Ebenezer United Methodist Church and Mount Ararat Baptist Church, both in Stafford; Sheehy Toyota of Stafford and Mary Washington Healthcare, who oversees Mary Washington Hospital in Fredericksburg and Stafford Hospital.
White said he hopes to land a fifth sponsor, because Stafford Food Security uses $ 10,000 of its operating funds on trucks and another $ 5,000 to wrap vehicles. The bright red bandage reflects the theme and mission of the organization – Hunger Strike Force – which seeks to take the fight against hunger to a new level.
“If you’re going to feed hundreds of people, you’ve got to be at the forefront,” said White.
Stafford Food Security focuses on providing food to children in need, but where children are starving, their families may too, added White. “Suffering children. I was one of these kids so I know what it feels like to be hungry. ”
The food truck will allow Stafford Food Security to prepare and cook in advance instead of carrying grills and coolers. Now, with heating ovens and refrigerators on the truck, White says he can cook a wider variety of foods, including chicken.
Elhaj Manassas Custom Food Truck created the truck, which is white, while Core Prints of Fredericksburg wraps it up for the finishing touch. Community assistance through the Amazon Wish List, which provides kitchen utensils and supplies.
Now, the organization is holding a Facebook fundraiser to purchase walk-in freezers and walk-in refrigerators for its headquarters. The equipment will cost $ 18,000, but the labor is covered thanks to Stafford’s Kelly Electric Services, White said. Organizations should refuse perishable donations because they don’t have enough space to cool and freeze food.
Stafford Food Security is bringing in over $ 200,000 in donations in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic is changing lives everywhere. That compared to $ 57,000 the previous year – and White was grateful for the “wonderful community.”
“Everything has crossed the line because of COVID,” he said. “We nearly doubled our income, but spent it all.”
His organization is feeding 2,000 people a month by 2020 and hopes to double that number.
“I didn’t want to just be a soup kitchen,” said White. “I want to give food to people.”
The Stafford Food Security headquarters, on Deacon Road in southern Stafford, made its debut in February 2020, just before the pandemic. Previously, White used a room as a warehouse in a church on Boscobel Street.
White formed the organization in 2017 because he wanted to do something that really matters, to help his community. The US Marine Corps veteran works in an office, suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, and feels useless despite the bright spots, including his beliefs and his family.
He started Stafford’s Food Safety with a eat in a backpack program through one of the Stafford schools in 2017, after passing on his idea to friend and Principal of Conway Elementary School JR Raybold.
White, whose wife, Amy White, works in education, said the idea was to fill a backpack with food and resources for a family of four. They will be distributed at school by teachers who identify students in need. The program soon expanded from one school to 66 in Stafford, King George, Spotsylvania and Fredericksburg.
Stafford Food Security differs from most soup kitchen programs in that traditional pantries require parental participation, which can be a challenge in itself. White looks for ways to provide food to children who need it without barriers such as income restrictions or certain qualifications.
He used little military intelligence, arguing that the threat was starvation whereas his weakness was the passive distribution system.
“You can sit there and sulk or go out and do something,” said White. “I really believe in giving back to the community. I came from a very dark childhood, and I wanted to break the cycle of poverty. “
With his passion, one might guess Stafford Food Security was White’s full-time job – but he actually ran the organization on the side when he wasn’t in charge of the leadership academy at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Dahlgren.
After COVID-19 prevented students from returning to school in August, the organization restructured its backpack approach and started delivering shelf-stable food to families in need. It holds cooking shows in schools and neighborhoods during the summer, knowing that many struggling people will not turn to for help.
Backpack food is successful during the normal school year, says White, but in the summer when kids don’t get free or reduced lunches, food trucks become necessary.
Stafford is one of the richest counties in the country, but the people who live here struggle too, White explained, so her response is about hope, empowerment, community and education while protecting children from hunger.
“Starvation is not a disease,” said White. It is a symptom of disease.
For that reason, organizations also provide education – from basic finance, job search and life skills to workshops that help teachers identify chronically starving children.
White said his parents moved his family frequently when he was a child. They don’t make good or bad decisions with finances, and she often goes hungry, so she hopes to improve the lives of others while treating them with kindness.
She describes one thank-you card from a woman whose family has no food. It wasn’t just the food she was grateful for, but also how she was treated. White hopes to make people feel at home, like they are family at a barbecue.
“Pack the food with love,” said White. “Let them know that you care about them and that they are important.”
Tracy Bell is a freelance writer based in Stafford County.
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