In honor of National Volunteer Week, April 17-23, United Way of Northeast Florida is highlighting outstanding community volunteers dedicated to making a difference all year long.
Epic-Cure is a 100% volunteer-ran organization that rescues good food from wholesale distributors, farms and grocery stores and provides it for free to people in need in St. Johns, Putnam and Duval Counties in Florida. In 2021 alone, using their own vehicles and Epic-Cure trucks, volunteers rescued 4.4 million pounds of food and distributed it to 70,000 families. Epic-Cure volunteers also teach cooking classes to low-income middle and high school students at Woodlawn Terrace Apartments and at THE PLAYERS Boys and Girls Club in St. Augustine.
Here’s what Sunny Mulford, co-founder and executive director of Epic-Cure, has to say about their Northeast Florida Changemakers:
When you hear about hunger in America it feels like a problem too big to solve. So you donate canned goods and money when asked. But, when we learned through the documentary Wasted! The Story of Food Waste that 30 to 40% of all the food produced ends up in a landfill, we knew there was a connection that needed to be made.
The camaraderie with fellow volunteers and seeing the impact we are having on ending food waste and food insecurity in our community. There is real suffering out there and when you meet the people in need and hear their stories it just makes us want to work harder to help more people.
The proof is in the numbers.
Since we opened the doors to our first warehouse a little less than 3 years ago, we have rescued and distributed over 9 million pounds of food and provided an average of 62 pounds of food over 143,000 times to families experiencing need or food insecurity.
Food rescue goes beyond providing good, healthy, and nutritious food to families; it is helping to move the needle on a serious environmental problem. Annually, food waste is the largest component in landfills and accounts for 6% of all greenhouse gas emissions. When food decomposes without the benefit of oxygen, it emits methane gas which is 10 times more harmful to earth’s atmosphere than excess CO2 emissions. The 9 million pounds of food our volunteers have helped divert from landfills has prevented 3,940 tons of methane gas from harming our atmosphere.
If the methane gas wasn’t bad enough, we use approximately 21% of our freshwater resources and about 21% of our farmland each year to produce food that will ultimately be wasted.
The cycle of poverty is very difficult to rise above. There are many hard working families and seniors on fixed income that just don’t make enough to make ends meet. This has been exacerbated significantly due to the economic effects of COVID-19 and inflation.
We provide regular ongoing food distributions, targeting low income neighborhoods through our mobile distribution program. By loading our trucks with food, tables and tents, we are able to set up farmer’s market style shopping for families in those areas. By providing free groceries every week, that frees up money to pay for rent, utilities, gas, medicine, etc.
We also teach cooking classes to middle school age children so they can gain life- and career- skills and self-confidence all while providing nutritious meals to bring home and share with their families. Our current enrollment is 20 students and we’d like to see that grow to 50 by the end of this year.
Epic-Cure volunteers have been able to rescue and distribute over 9 million pounds of food in under 3 years, helping families in need, the environment, and doing all they can to help break that cycle of poverty — that is how you “amplify good.”
Because change doesn’t happen alone, people like you are needed now more than ever to uplift the most vulnerable in our community. You can find a variety of community service projects at unitedwaynefl.org/volunteer.