Words By Ambar Ramirez
Imagine not knowing the next time you will eat, and living with consistent food shortages and hunger or food insecurity becomes the norm. Such a life is already a reality for millions of low-income households and for those living in developing nations. And if changes are not made now that life will become a reality for millions more.
In developing nations, the main reason for the hunger crisis stems from a lack of food production and scarcity of supplies. In America, though, the main reason we will face food hunger is due to inflation, a lack of policies addressing the issue, and prioritizing the needs of corporations and the wealthy. Fortunately, there are apolitical, community-based organizations all over the world working tirelessly to avoid this crisis. Epic-Cure is one that is implementing action right now in Northeast Florida and Central Florida.
In just three years, the 100% volunteer-run, non-profit has saved and distributed over 10 million pounds of food to families that face food insecurity—safe, edible food that would have ended up in landfills, releasing harmful methane gas into our atmosphere instead of feeding people in need.
In a warehouse near St. Augustine, I met with the executive director of Epic-Cure Sunny Mulford. Along with her team, Mulford was sorting through a mass shipment of food they received from places like Publix, Costco and other big box stores.
“We’re a critical lifeline,” Mulford said. “It’s like non-stop the calls that you get, you know, ‘I don’t have even gas money to get to you,’ or ‘I have no food [and] I’ve got five kids.’”
On Thursdays, the organization opens its warehouse in St. Augustine for families who make appointments to come in and shop. Fridays and Saturdays they do the same at their warehouse in Palatka. The rest of the week Epic-Cure hits the road, setting up shop in low-income communities and farmers markets and by doing home deliveries throughout Northeast Florida and Central Florida. With any food or product that isn’t up to their standards, Epic-Cure sends it to local farms to feed animals. Even the shipping boxes the food comes in are given to the families to carry the food, completely zero waste.
“We look at this inflation problem as a seriously long haul problem in the food shortages,” Mulford said. Because Epic-Cure receives such an abundance of food, they are able to provide food to other food pantries, soup kitchens or organizations serving individuals and families living with food insecurity. “They’re seeing their numbers double too,” she said.
Even overflow food is put to good use. On Mondays and Wednesdays, Epic-Cure volunteers host cooking classes at the Boys and Girls Club to teach kids how to safely prepare meals while emphasizing important life skills and offering tips to prevent bad habits when it comes to food.
“We bring all of the ingredients and then each kid makes their own dinner and then they take that home to feed their families,” Mulford said. During each class, the Epic-Cure instructor prepares a separate dish which they all share at the end of class and talk about the food and the experience.
The organization is constantly looking at ways they can resource food, especially in areas where there is consistent food waste. Currently, Epic-Cure is working with trucking companies that deliver to grocery stores but have their deliveries rejected for one reason or another. In some cases, the product is returned to the distributors, but more often than not, those truckloads of food are dumped. Like trash. Truck drivers now deliver those loads to Epic-Cure and other organizations. Just a couple of weeks ago, Mulford and her team received a rejected load of 937 cases of “beautiful” cut fruit.
“We’re really trying to make that connection,” Mulford said, “because this is a time when we can’t afford to not be making use of every resource we have.”
Just that one day I visited the warehouse, they received 2,000 pounds of meat and stacks of boxes of fruit and produce from five distributors that would have been thrown in the trash if it weren’t for organizations like Epic-Cure.
For more information on Epic-Cure including volunteer opportunities and other ways to support the organization, visit epic-cure.org