SHARE Monthly Article – The Greg Gannon Canned Food Drive Responds to COVID

| November 15, 2020 | 0 Comments

The following is my monthly article to the SHARE Food Network’s Monthly Newsletter

GGCFD at the Mother Mary Lange Food Pantry at Our Lady of Sorrows Church

In 1987, Greg Gannon of Chevy Chase, Maryland recruited a bunch of friends and informally collected canned food from friends and neighbors to help people in his community feed their families during the holidays. It formalized into a program and continued as a one-a-year holiday tradition. Since those humble beginnings, the program has grown to the point where it has collected and donated 2 million canned goods to greater Washington area food banks.

Sadly, in keeping with Billy Joel’s words, “Only the good die young,” Greg left us too soon.  He passed away in 2006.  His brother, Rick, picked up the torch, named the program the “Greg Gannon Canned Food Drive” (GGCFD) and has been indefatigable in taking the program to new heights. 

Since the program was annual, focused on the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, the time between the actual drive was spent evaluating its success, identifying ways to make it better and planning for the next year.

Then the pandemic hit.  In keeping with the GGCFD mission, Rick mobilized his team and considered ways that the program could be repurposed to address the massive spike in food insecurity caused by COVID-19.  

“We are all about getting food where it’s needed,” he said.  “This was an emergency.  We weren’t about to wait eight months to engage.”

Step one was to raise money from supporters of GGCFD and, boy did they respond.  Tens of thousands of dollars poured in.  Then, Rick and his team had to figure the best, most efficient and most effective way to turn those dollars into food for people who need it.  That’s where SHARE came in.

Rick knew about SHARE.  So, he knew that there was no better way to obtain fresh, nutritious food in high volume at the lowest possible cost than through SHARE.  A collaboration was born.  Since the beginning of the pandemic, Rick and his team from the GGCFD have assembled every Wednesday at the SHARE warehouse to load up multiple vehicles and transport value packages to churches and food programs all over the Washington area.

In order to accomplish this mission, both SHARE and GGCFD had to adjust their processes to make it happen.  GGCFD is a once a year program.  SHARE is a once a month program.  They both turned into once a week programs in order to respond to the great need for food in the community.

Once such beneficiary is Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church in Takoma Park, Maryland.  Mike and Esco Williams started a food program to address food needs in their community caused by the pandemic.   They renovated an abandoned convent as the food distribution site.  Since many in the community they named the food pantry in honor of Mother Mary Lange, a Haitian nun who started an order in the early 1900’s.  Ironically, she helped people through the pandemic of 1918 and the picture of her on the convent wall shows a child wearing a mask.  Their program served 125 families in August and has grown to 220 today.  

Esco explained the importance of SHARE to their efforts.  While they certainly appreciate all the various sources of food for their community, the SHARE food was unique in that it included meat, poultry and fish.  

“The clients get very excited when the SHARE food is distributed,” she said.

This collaboration between the Greg Gannon food drive, the SHARE Food Network and Our Lady of Sorrows shows how people of goodwill can work together to help friends and neighbors survive these difficult times.

Sadly, all the experts are saying that things will get worse before they get better. So, it is critical that we all emulate Rick Gannon and his team, as well as Mike and Esco, so that we all get through this together.

Category: Uncategorized

Leave a Reply