Table Talk: Renewed Energy of Fall

By Linda Carter

Tuesday was a day of pure energy. There was a definite uptick in the work in the kitchen (way too many eggs to sort); around the tables with greens, corn, apples, strawberries; damaged fruits going in to chunky applesauce and strawberry-banana smoothies thanks to Caroline of Downtown Greens. Don personally shucked nine crates of corn so that the off color husks didn’t stop shoppers from taking them. Tom was happy to show people that the purple marks on the carrots was caused by storage in plastic, but did not damage the carrot at all. We had new shoppers from as far away as Tappahannock and Ruther Glen. Carey asked for volunteers to reach out to some of our regulars who are suffering from terrible family losses and major health issues – a Table One Body Team.

We are blessed with volunteers. Sometimes it seems like we have more than enough, but we will find a place for you. We are still looking for gleaners to slot in to a weekly schedule.  If you have 2 hours in the middle of the day M/T/W/F, let me know.  We are working on setting up a monthly schedule so that gleaning rotates among a lot of people. The Table will be sending representatives to a Stafford Schools fair on Nov. 12 to talk to students about how they can volunteer in their communities. We love working with students of all ages and showing them the good that comes from helping others. Rivermont should be back with us shortly.

The Table buzzed all day long. Slightly cooler, less humid weather? Excitement of the Pope’s visit? Rushing to the holidays? The number of shoppers we see each week continues to hold at a higher level. We are thankful for a new grant of $12,500 from the Honeywell Charitable Fund of the Community Foundation. It is needed to sustain The Table going forward. Along with grants, we continue to look for other ways to get healthy foods to The Table each week. Take time to breathe this week and enjoy the beautiful weather we have been given.

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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.

Table Talk: Hugging the Vegetables

By Linda Carter

Who hugs veggies and does a dance with them? Children who look forward to 7 p.m. on a Tuesday night when Tina will bring in any leftovers from The Table. Last night they got squash, zucchini, potatoes, carrots, onions, fennel and greens straight from the fields of the Flores Farm to them – actually with a little detour to The Table.

Our well-blessed cooling shed is doing a great job in keeping the produce fresh until we can give it out. What a treat not to worry about where we can store produce in this heat or how often we need to ice it and know that it will still wilt by the time we put it out. We have seniors who get just as excited about the fresh veggies we have. They swap recipes among themselves and with our volunteers. Kohlrabi was introduced to our shoppers last year, and young and old alike look for it now.

Thanks to a Mustard Seed grant, we are starting to put together a team to plan lessons which will start in August with families and run in to the fall with our older shoppers. Wendy was walking around in the morning sharing a soaked oatmeal, which is one of Dr. Yum’s recipes and can be made overnight with no cooking; it can be chocolate, berry or tropical flavored depending on personal preference and is a very child friendly dish. Looks like a winner and probably the first lesson. Janean is back with us this summer and will start preparing tastings for our shoppers using the produce delivered on Sunday; recipes in English and Spanish will be available.

Breakfast bags are back for all school age children who come to The Table. Thanks to Laura’s Daisies for getting us started last week, and thanks to a private donation, we will be able to provide cereal, juice, a granola bar, fruit and a protein to every child we see between now and the start of school. Thanks to Danielle and Sandy for clipping box tops all year and getting books for children with them. We have been giving them out with the breakfast bags. Not only are our young guests being nourished physically, they are being challenged mentally. I sat with one beginning reader last night who read to me from the book she chose. If you have any books your children have outgrown and would like to share, please bring them in.

Table Talk: Wow! Thanks! Help!

by Linda Carter and the Rev. Carey Chirico, Deacon

Smiles, laughs, and lots of them! Who knew we had a rector who could juggle apples while saying the opening prayer or juggle plastic bags? The mood in the room went from the usual quiet, concerned one to a momentary respite from life’s troubles. Thank you, Joe, for bringing the gift of laughter to The Table.

Ann Lamott explains that there are three major types of prayer – “Wow, Thanks, Help.”

The Table regularly presents us with all three moments sometimes at the same time. This past Tuesday, we had a dad come in asking about baby food. As we worked on finding community resources, a young mother who regularly shops with us came up to Chris Cook and said she could help. She had some extra baby food at home from her small family and she would happily share. She ran home (with her children in tow) and returned with two bags of baby food to donate to this fellow shopper in need. The previous week, this same mom had felt terrible when her baby, hanging from a front carrier, had kicked out and knocked Tom Way’s coffee mug off a table and smashed it. She also returned with a new mug for Tom.

At the end of the night, just as the doors were being closed and tables put away, a small family of four came in asking for food. They were first-timers, and the mom and children were given a personal tour of the tables and invited to choose what they needed. The nine-year-old was mortified and would not look up from her phone as her mom tried to involve her in the choices available. Finally upon reaching the baking area, the mom broke down and sobbed. “It has been a long time since I have seen this much food,” she said.

The greatest words of comfort we could offer were powerful ones: “We will see you next week. Please come back and let us know how you are doing. We will be here waiting for you.”

Wow, Thanks, Help – all at the same time. The Table continues to transform us through the grace of Christ’s presence there. Thanks be to God.

We will celebrate and bless the cooling shed on Sunday, June 14, from 2-4 p.m. at the George St. courtyard. There will be refreshments, music by The Table’s own DJ Richard, a ribbon cutting and thank yous to all who made it possible. Who knows? Maybe we can convince Joe to show off some of his juggling talents with produce from the Flores Farm delivery. Kohlrabi, beets, fennel, Daikon radishes might be a challenge even for him!