Sadly, many people believe that the suffering of humans and animals are mutually exclusive. Vegans, however, tend to realize suffering isn’t speciest, and that’s the thinking behind Community Solidarity (CS), a food rescue that works to aid all species through its hunger relief efforts.
The Long Island group is America’s largest vegetarian program of its kind, rescuing and sharing some 3,026,628.65 pounds of food with New Yorkers in need in 2014. Because the scale of their efforts has become so massive, they desperately need a cargo van, and are running a campaign to raise funds.
“At the moment all our food rescue operations are done by volunteers who use their own vehicles to transport payloads of groceries that can weigh anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand pounds,” founder Jon Stepanian explains. “It’s a decentralized model that allows us to respond to timely food donation offers very quickly. But there are times when this model falls short.”
Like the time when a distributor had 15,000 pounds of So Delicious ice cream to share, Stepanian says. “On those pickups we’re always forced to leave literal tons of food behind.”
The organization’s goal is $60,000. The funds would cover a fuel-efficient vehicle, a year’s worth of insurance and fuel, a maintenance fund, promotional fees, municipal fees and a vehicle wrap to help them spread the word about CS’ amazing efforts.
“We estimate that by just rescuing the food we are forced to leave behind each week this vehicle will allow to collect an additional 600,000 pounds in its first year of operation,” Stepanian says. That would feed a lot of hungry families.
In addition, there are many distributors who CS can’t work with because of its lack of capacity for transport. The van would facilitate more food pickups, allowing them to serve many more people. The organization operates 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, rain or shine, and there’s an endless need for the services they provide: weekly “Food Shares” (as they call them) in Hempstead, Huntington, Farmingville, Wyandanch and Bed-Stuy.
Some people might ask, why only vegetarian food? Should they be picking and choosing when it comes to feeding the hungry?
The suffering of humans and animals is part of the same problem, says Stepanian, and you can’t fix one without acknowledging the other.
“The blind indifference that makes it so easy for so many people to overlook the hungry is the same blind indifference that makes it so easy for so many to overlook the suffering of animals in factory farms,” Stepanian says. “Or overlook the environmental destruction created by those farms, or overlook the economic system that values those animals lives’ so poorly, or overlook how that same economic system devalues those poor and hungry families we stand up for each and every day.”
In addition, vegetarian foods are unquestionably healthier, and with the rates of chronic disease skyrocketing (particularly amongst lower income populations), that’s an important consideration.
“Many of the areas we operate in are considered food deserts, or areas where it’s very difficult to attain fresh produce and nutritious groceries,” he explains. “Sharing plant-based foods in these areas has been proven to decrease instances of heart disease, obesity, diabetes and other food related illnesses.”
The organization has raised $7,773 of its $60,000 goal, with 21 days remaining in the campaign. Supporters can donate online at VeganFoodRescue.com, and every dollar helps.
“At our core, Community Solidarity is an organization that believes all suffering is wrong; human and animal,” Stepanian adds. “Alleviating hunger and alleviating animal suffering are not mutually exclusive. Philosophically, we actually believe it’s the opposite. You can’t end the suffering of humans if you continue to justify the suffering of other living beings.”
Amen to that. So can we help this amazing vegan food rescue get some new wheels already?