Feeding The Food Insecure in Fredericksburg

This is what I wrote for Front Porch for November

The mantra for ‘The Table’ - a Fredericksburg program that provides free produce to whoever needs it – seems to be “whole person health.” 

They are taking care of the spirit as well as the body.

Run by St George’s Episcopal church, and staffed by volunteers, who are both parishioners St George’s and others, The Table is one of multiple programs in Fredericksburg helping to battle food insecurity in our region.

It takes place every Tuesday between 12.00 midday and 2 pm in Historic Market Square and provides primarily fresh fruit and veg. But also, some bread, meat, sometimes prepared foods like Wawa sandwiches, and if donated, extraneous health products like diapers, soap, and toothbrushes. 

Started as a more traditional church feeding program, donating non-perishables from the basement of St George’s, the program evolved. First to the youth started growing vegetables in the corner of the graveyard to give away. Now it is a full scale open air market – donating food to anyone regardless -  there being no kind of means test or criteria to receive goods. 

Fresh produce is now supplied by purchasing from local farmers, or “gleaned” from local shops passing on their unused excess. The Table is completely funded by grants and donations from parishioners and members of the community. But they are feeding more than just the body, insists Wendy Cannon and Lisa Durham – the two principal volunteer organizers of the program. 

The welcome, the companionship, the respect and general inclusiveness of the program – not to mention the fairground atmosphere, where I would not be surprised to see musicians, court jesters and dancing bears – makes people feel part of the community. 

They provide fresh produce for many in our community, the employed, unemployed and some of the homeless population.  Every session is started with a blessing, usually by Father Will Dickinson, who on the day I was there, was also anointing and blessing people as they prepared to load up with a large variety of healthy foods.

Emphasizing Health

I was actually aware of The Table before this, in my role as medical director of the Moss Clinic, we having been urged to participate by Nana Noi of the REMS Council (whose Mobile Integrated Healthcare program I wrote about in May).

Moss Clinic, together with other agencies like the library, legal aid and EMS, have furthered the idea of promoting health by making their own contribution. 

Moss has a team coming every other Tuesday organized, by Pharmacy Director, Abbi Kopp. At first just providing advice about health insurance and health in general - glad to have a platform to make it known the clinic provides a medical home for the uninsured. But more recently, we have been able to provide COVID vaccine (Johnson and Johnson) to a population likely to not have easy access to immunization.

The Need

In this mad world where obesity, diabetes and other diseases of poor diet are rampant, fresh produce is relatively expensive. Whereas you can buy a cheeseburger at McDonalds for 1$ -  partly because the soy and corn used to feed livestock, are subsidized by the Department of Agriculture.

Particularly water. A pound of meat needs 2,500 gallons of water. But a pound of wheat only 25 gallons. “Without water subsidies, hamburger meat would cost $35 a pound” notes the website Think Progress.

On a more personal level, the volunteers at The Table feel good about helping others (what I call “helpfulness therapy” where helping someone else does you good) as they provide not just fresh produce to the needy in the community but caring and love. 

It is a program that is “feeding the whole person” say Lisa and Wendy.

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