The Rhythm of the Table

By Linda Carter

In this undated photo, shoppers select produce at the Table at St. George's, Fredericksburg, VA.
Table shoppers selecting produce

There is definitely a rhythm to Tuesdays. When we get there at 6 a.m., there are our regulars already at the door, happy to sit and chat with their neighbors. People drift in to work and grab a cutting board, knife, and loaf of Jimmy John’s bread to start bagging. They know more than I do what needs to be done, and they chat about the past week. Nell describes a mentholated ointment that her sister sends to her from the Korean store in New York City that is good for sprains, congestion, and just about everything. Strangely enough? There’s no ginger in it. Ginger is a cure-all for those from her island.

Maurice and Mike are busy emptying boxes on to the tables. Richard is working magic with the plastic bags. Tom is running around looking for the coffee cup he’s lost again. They are dividing everything between the day and night Tables, counting sweets from Panera and Starbucks. Lots of new people today. Tim talks about having been laid off and needing food for his family. A number more of these folks need to be walked through the process for the first time. You can tell it’s difficult for them to be asking for food, but everyone welcomes them and encourages them to ask questions. My crew is the best. A volunteer comes in with Depends for a cancer patient who is being hugged and blessed by all.

I get to hold my Thanksgiving turkey! Back around Thanksgiving, Sarah’s grandson was born the day we were handing out turkeys for Thanksgiving; we got a call from Sarah explaining that she was at the hospital with her daughter and asking if we could get her turkeys to her home. Most definitely, I said, since it was on my way home. Now, he’s a charmer—almost 9 months old and happy. Children are picking out books from Becky’s collection.

This morning is unbelievably busy; 113 households come through in 90 minutes, and we still had food to give. We haven’t seen this many people since Thanksgiving, actually. A quick trip to the Food Bank with empty boxes to see what we can scrounge for the evening session. No dairy or cereal, but lots of juice and water. The crew has been restocking everything while enjoying pizza. We take a trip to the store to purchase cereal that we are really low on. Chris has things under control since the church has a funeral tucked in between Table sessions.

The afternoon crew has been arriving in dribs and drabs, but we will have more than enough to cover The Table for the evening shift at 5. Veggies have been checked; discards, composted. Our Wawa goods are restocked. Joe+, our rector, is juggling cantaloupes to entertain the crowd while a volunteer films him to send to his sister in Florida with a “my church is better than your church” note. Our Virginia Tech intern, Erica, is handing out samples and talking about produce and nutrition. The skies have opened up with torrential rains, but people are adapting and waiting for a break in the storms. A meeting is starting in the kitchen to plan the cooking classes we will be doing starting in August. Everywhere there are smiles and conversations and sharing. Downtown Greens arrives to pick up 210 pounds of compost. I began the day with one baby and end the day with another, a 3-month-old charmer who is here with Mom and Grandma.

Clean-up begins in earnest because we have a 12-step group who has been temporarily displaced from its church home coming in to Sydnor at 7 p.m. It’s still pouring, but things go like clockwork and the group is in by 7, not even a little damp. I am headed home to dinner and a glass of wine. There is definitely a rhythm to The Table. It runs on its own, even on its busiest days, without disruption.

Inventory is very low at the Fredericksburg Regional Food Bank right now. We are looking for items that do not have to be refrigerated. We are asking everyone to bring a box of cereal, a can of ravioli or stew, a small box of Velveeta or other shelf-stable (non-refrigerated) cheese, or shelf-stable milk to church on Sunday for distribution at The Table on Tuesday. If we see another 201 households on Tuesday, we will be very short of non-perishable items. We will have plenty of produce. Thanks to all.

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