Follow the Food
What happens after the Fight Against Hunger event?
It’s been more than 20 years since Dream Dinners franchisees Phil and Sheila Harris began serving families in San Diego’s North County.
While working in a government apartment complex, Phil started a free community sports program after he heard concerns of the residents. He recruited volunteers and coaches for the sports league, which then led to an adult literacy program covering more than 21 different languages spoken in the neighborhood. The literacy program led to an after-school homework club, computer literacy classes and the opening of a WIC clinic that provided immunizations for mothers and children within walking distance of the residents. After many more programs were launched in the community and throughout San Diego County, Friends and Family Community Connection (FFCC) was born.
Over the years, FFCC’s reach expanded outside of San Diego, and eventually abroad. The international work began with the distribution of Fight Against Hunger meals.
A Natural Partnership and a Mutual Vision
“I had been sharing the impact that developing and hosting these meal packaging events were having on our customers and our community with the Dream Dinners corporate team. My hope was that they would catch the vision,” said Phil. “Who better should be in this fight to provide healthy meals for families locally and around the world than Dream Dinners?”
Since 2015, Dream Dinners has partnered with FFCC to host meal packaging events with its stores across the country. The events bring together hundreds of families and friends to package meals for those in need, both locally and abroad in food-insecure countries such as Tanzania and Haiti.
The events are fun, fast-paced and family friendly. Hundreds of eager volunteers gather and pack non-perishable meals that are designed to help reverse the effects of starvation. The meals include rice, vitamins, protein, and dehydrated vegetables. One-third of the meals stay local, and usually go to an area food bank or shelter, and the remaining meals go abroad.
“It’s been great working with the store owners. Many owners are in this business because they value the time around the dinner table with their families. Dream Dinners and FFCC allow them to take that one step further, to go and make a difference in someone else’s life, in their own neighborhood and abroad,” said Phil.
The organizations have settled into a natural partnership. Both Dream Dinners and FFCC work to develop generations of leaders that live daily to love their neighbors as themselves, and they are able accomplish this by working together to provide millions of meals to children in need.
Getting from Point A to Point B
On the local level, FFCC works with Dream Dinners and other organizations to distribute packaged meals to schools, local food banks, and food pantries. Internationally, FFCC ships meal packages in shipping containers from Long Beach, Calif. to countries like Tanzania and Haiti. To date, FFCC has shipped more 16 million meals to 16 countries. Some countries have been provided with containers to help with disaster relief aid.
FFCC also works with some countries on an ongoing basis due to the high percentage of starvation and malnutrition. In every country where FFCC ships, they have an experienced food distribution team of locals and in some cases relationships with local governments to ensure the food is distributed to those most in need. FFCC also travels with volunteers to guarantee the food is being properly distributed and the training is effective.
To date, FFCC has shipped food packages to Tanzania, Haiti, the Philippines, Myanmar, Japan, Kenya, Honduras, Afghanistan, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Mexico, India, Honduras, Nepal, Ecuador and Vietnam.
Working Towards Sustainability
Food packages are only part of the equation. FFCC’s goal is to help make these communities sustainable so they can reach to self-sufficiency. They work to get people out of poverty through education and vocational training programs and agricultural assistance, among other initiatives.
- Water Filtration – “The food does little to no good if there isn’t safe drinking water,” said Harris. FFCC has installed more than 30,000 water filters where they distribute food. These filters require no electricity, and when properly cleaned, will last for three to four generations. FFCC is also developing a water filter that can be built in-country to bring the technology and jobs to the area.
- Food Security – In addition to the food shipped from the states, FFCC works local governments and community leaders to develop a similar robust protein, carb and vitamin- fortified meal from locally grown food sources within that particular country. The overall objective is to eliminate FFCC’s food import footprint with food produced in-country and to create jobs that will continue the food production long after FFCC is gone.
- Health Education and Medical Care – FFCC has developed a health education curriculum that is being incorporated into the schools in Haiti to provide basic health education for students and health education workshops for parents. The parents that attend the workshops are then eligible to set a medical or dental appointment with the medical team that travels to Haiti every six months. This simple health education program is predicted to eliminate 75 percent of the health issues FFCC commonly faces in its biannual clinics.
- Academy Program – FFCC recruits American sponsors to provide needed funds to send students to higher education programs. Currently, there are more than 60 students in programs in Haiti and Tanzania. FFCC has helped graduate 20 students who are now practicing doctors, nurses, business majors, computer science majors, plumbers, and electricians.
- Rebuilding Efforts – FFCC is working extensively in Haiti after the destruction caused by Hurricane Matthew. They have worked to rebuild more than 70 homes since the hurricane hit last November. FFCC also developed a seed relief program with local Haitian farmers to get seeds in the ground since crops were washed away.
By bringing together hundreds of families and friends to volunteer for these events, these organizations are able to teach community members, particularly the youth, the importance of helping others. The Dream Dinners FFCC partnership provides the opportunity to make a difference not only the lives of members of one community, but also all around the world.