In 1996, while working for one of the largest organic supermarkets in the nation, Debra Ulrich noticed the staggering amount of food that was being thrown out and wasted. She asked that the food to be given to her so that it could be delivered without charge, to individuals who needed it... and never resold for a profit.
After making sure the food was available for pickup (that first friday night), Debra gradually increased the number of days she would recover and freely distribute the food. Over the course of less than 4 years, she got hundreds and hundreds of volunteers to pick up and freely deliver over $4 million worth of food (and some shelter items). It was with volunteer's help, that Recovery Relief was created and born.
The 300 $100 meal dinners that were recovered from a Smithsonian fund-raising dinner for 3000 people, were freely delivered to the Gospel Rescue Mission in downtown DC.
It was a tremendously huge and awesome task to be able to make it possible for nothing to be thrown out on any day of the week with just one 'particular' supermarket she had been working for... especially when churches were fighting amongst themselves for the food, volunteers wouldn't show up, the supermarket didn't really care (or want to care!) about having to be 'conscious of their corporate waste=abundance!'. And most especially, the small communities with the greatest need, not being able to acquire it for themselves (for many reasons).
Initially, it took over a year for the food to be consistently recovered from the first store alone, since the employees needed to be educated and schedules had to be implemented as well as carried out. Ultimately, enough food was recovered in 4 years from just a couple of places, to at least feed over 4000 people per week. It became clear (over time) that specific ‘pockets’ of communities of truly disadvantaged people (and/or their organizations) existed and were in the most dire need due to a real 'lack'. They themselves were rarely in a position to recover it, and there was too much food recovered for such a small community to consume all by itself. They could not handle the tremendous amount of effort required to distribute to others like them.
It became impossible for Debra as one individual, to direct, manage and support the all-encompassing mission to carry out her own vision any longer... especially with only voluntary support.
The food that Debra initially delivered to a friend’s house with the effort (and intention) of first, never having it thrown away, and second, having it only go to those with no food (or very little food) to sustain and support LIFE, was, over many years... picked up, distributed and consumed by over thousands and thousands of people and organizations who needed it .
The majority of organizations and individuals Ms. Ulrich spoke to about the abundance being wasted,
One of her biggest challenges was to get dependable and reliable transportation and manpower resources, public support and awareness.
In November 2001, the law firm of Arnold & Porter established Recovery Relief, Inc. as a public, non-profit 501(c)3 corporation to carry out the charitable activities mentioned above.
In 2003, the Anchor of Hope's trucks broke down and the bread from a bakery that fed over 1000 people a night (22 55-gallon garbage bags) was no longer able to be recovered. Debra felt she couldn't 'dump it' on the White House lawn to feed the birds without getting arrested, and it was at that time that she felt her recovery relief effort was needing to be at a standstill (even though it had been years and years of bountiful recovery). She didn't have the ability to continue corporate operations any longer. And (maybe?!) she was correct in not demanding to stay after closing time one night when a large grocery store that was throwing out $200 worth of milk refused to give it to her (even though she had a refrigerator truck in the parking lot ready to go to a ministry with a daycare facility). It probably would have been entertaining to have the newspaper and the police there to remove her from the store. It probably was a missed publicity opportunity that she could have had, yet, then again, she didn't want to be arrested.
One of the largest foundations in D.C. had expressed an interest in funding the company, yet she did not have enough manpower available at the time, to write the proposals necessary to build the company's capacity and foundational structure. This particular foundation was (unfortunately) only interested in supporting and recovering items strictly to be consumed for
In building the corporate capacity and organizational structure of the corporation, there needed to be a (built-in) system that functions efficiently and reliably, 24 hours a day and 7 days a week with no definitive local (or even state) lines drawn. It is only then that Recovery Relief will be able to effective. Although many surplus providers were (and still are) available, there needs to be more awareness given to this expansive 'vision' and corporate mission. The abundant food needs to stop being wasted simply because it generates a profit (or doesn't). It's not about profit. It's about nourishment and sustenance for all.
Emergency fire, police and rescue agencies; federal, state and local governments; as well as profits and non-profits alike, need to work together as an integral part of this 'whole' recovery effort, so future generations of needy families in disastrous situations are cared for in the years to come.
Recovered items are needed most by so many who are barely making ends meet. An organized recovery relief system - through an effort that has the capacity at any time of the day or night to transport items of sustenance to a disadvantaged community or individual in any location - is urgently needed in this nation (as well as all over the world).
The operation has to have the capabilities necessary to offer pick up and delivery of perishable and nonperishable surplus foods, clothing, household goods to anyone who does not have it and has no means of getting it. After all... there is a Post Office in every town across America
The process is a very valuable source of expanded outreach service fostering community growth and sustainability for ALL individuals. If done correctly, it will freely provide a tremendous nationally (& multinational) public service not currently available.
As long there are children in need every day in this nation, no surplus or unused goods need to be thrown away.
The day may yet come, when toleration of waste will no longer be an acceptable practice, and the effort supportive organizations, individuals and governments put forward in making the Recovery Relief mission a reality, will be a priceless outreach program that will support ALL communities far-and-wide.
Support for this effort allows an individual to maintain dignity and respect.
It also assures the sustainability of this planet and every living being on it!