Our  hyperlocal H ST. NE FOOD DRIVE initially started as a way to bring relief for children impacted by the school closures due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Many of these kids were no longer getting their primary source of nutrients that school breakfast and lunch provided. With our close ties to our H street NE Corridor of neighborhoods, we took it as our responsibility to provide the best we can for a community that has given us so much. What we soon discovered is that no good deed goes without its own sets of challenges.

With the city government's goal of flattening the curve, our original donation/distribution point, Hill Prince Bar had to close its doors for business. Although we understood the importance of the closure, it was frustrating for all of us, as they have been great partners in the community, opening their doors for pop-ups, local art exhibits, book signings, and fundraisers. Their closure presented a hurdle we didn't anticipate and as soon as we started our effort we had to suspend it until we could source a new location.

Like many of us hunkered down, either working from home or in many cases out of work due to the pandemic, the silver lining to it was having a moment to slow down and catch up with friends, through FaceTime or phone calls of course. One of the first phone calls I made was to Chef Opie Crooks of A Rake's Progress. We covered a lot in that phone call but to make a long story short he connected me to Chef and restaurateur Erik Bruner-Yang.

Now let me preface this by saying I had never met Chef Erik before, but maybe off the strength of his relationship with Chef Opie, maybe their shared love of community and maybe just being good dudes with big hearts, we were able to re-establish our food drive within hours after being connected.

H ST. NE FOOD DRIVE had its home at MAKETTO! Chef Erik and the team there provided us with a space for folks to safely donate, and for those in need to pick up non-perishable food items. It has been important to us to address the hyper-local hunger concerns in our Ward 5 and 6 neighborhoods, and being at Maketto allowed us to do just that. What's fantastic about having the food drive at Maketto was the accessibility—with operating hours Monday - Saturday from 7:30 AM - 9:30 PM daily, we were able to offer a much wider window for those in need vs. the limited hours and locations that DCPS and other non-profit organizations are currently able to provide.

Our food drive also goes beyond being limited to just serving the youth. What we thought would be a great way to provide meals for kids, evolved into something so much bigger. We've been able to feed families with children, single parent households, our service industry family, and even the elderly and our neighbors with special needs. Our impact has gone beyond what we could have ever imagined.

Now our mission is simply to be a stop gap, a relief supplement to services on the way from the Federal government, along with those already offered by city government, DCPS, and other larger organizations. What we are able to do is acutely attack the issue of hunger in our neighborhood during the pandemic when the above resources are already being stretched to the limits, inaccessible, or aren't eligible to those newly impacted. We are able to fill in the cracks, so to speak, in our community that other organizations may miss. What the pandemic has done is expose inadequacies when it comes to food accessibility and distribution. Prior to the pandemic many folks didn't need or meet qualifications for assistance. Guess what? Now they do. The pandemic has also exposed accessibility challenges unique to these specific circumstances.

Our food drive pantry alleviates many of the health and monetary challenges that going to the grocery store now poses. Since all our food donations are free to take you are in and out within a minute or two, tops. There are no crowds to deal with and we are only a short walk for our neighbors in need. There's no decision making on how best to spend what little money you may have, and now you can use that towards other necessities.

What we did was swiftly and decisively move into action with help from our community to assist those who have been in need and those now finding themselves newly in need of food. Thanks to an out pouring of monetary donations, physical donations, and people spreading the word we've been able to put a significant dent in fighting hunger in the H Street Northeast corridor.

We still face challenges with our effort. Our hyper-local pantry gets wiped out daily, so we are in a constant battle to restock it. To better replenish our shelves and help those in need we have moved to a model that will allow people to order non-perishable food items online and have them directly ship to Maketto. This protects those that want to donate allowing them to do so from the comfort of home using platforms like Giant's Peapod, WholeFoods Amazon delivery, Aldi's grocery delivery, etc. We want to point those platforms out in-particular as they provide the most efficient means to restocking our H ST. NE FOOD DRIVE shelves.

It's our hope that this new innovation to our supply chain will help us keep the shelves filled and people fed here in our community. Beyond that though, we hope that this can serve as a model for how other communities can quickly mobilize as private citizens to bring relief to their neighborhoods.


Thank you for your continued support!

Lots of love,

Chris Cardi Team

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