Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Food Gleaned for Those in Need; Agency Collects Leftover Food to Pass Out

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Food Gleaned for Those in Need; Agency Collects Leftover Food to Pass Out

Article excerpt

Byline: CHRISTY WHITEHEAD

There used to be a time when Dave Fountain dug through the garbage, looking for day-old food to give people he knew were hungry.

These days he doesn't have to dig very deep, as many businesses in the community open their doors to him, giving him their leftover food. Fountain runs the Westside-based Gleaners Dispatch, a 9-year-old non-profit that rescues ("gleans") excess bread and produce that would otherwise be thrown away, and then redistributes ("dispatches") it to thousands of people in Northeast Florida.

"All this stuff would go to the hogs if we didn't come get it," Fountain said.

Gleaners Dispatch, which has city-provided office and storage space, goes to several locations in the area to give out food during the week. Even though police have warned Fountain that people who have arrest warrants are going through his distribution line, he insists he is in the people business and will feed everyone.

"I don't care if a guy's got five warrants on his head, if he's hungry, I'm going to feed him," he said. "If [Osama] bin Laden came through the line, I'd have to pray on that one, but I'd feed him."

Fountain started feeding hungry people he knew nine years ago. He remembers the early days of Dumpster diving to get food that grocery stores were throwing away. He would also buy bread during the day and then at night give the food to people he knew needed it.

"I remember standing behind Winn-Dixie with two banana boxes and I started to bawl because I knew I could feed four families with that food," Fountain said. "Now we feed close to 10,000 families a week. We just kept mushrooming."

Gleaners Dispatch runs off donations, most from people who need the food the most. As they come in to get their food, a bread box is set up at the front and those who can afford it drop a dollar or two in.

"The only thing that keeps the fuel in the trucks is we set out a box for donations," Fountain said. "If they give, good; if they don't, they still get the food."

His agency could apply to receive grants, but Fountain's wife, Terry, said they just don't have the time.

"Everyone says there are grants available," she said. "We just honestly never have the time to oversee the distribution and learn how to write grant proposals that will get funded."

Gleaners Dispatch has several trucks that run early in the morning to pick up food, and each was donated or bought with money from donations. Fountain says the biggest donation he ever got was $3,000 from a man who wanted to help him buy another truck.

"Every day, I count my blessings because there's so many people that help us, fix our tires, fix our trucks," Dave Fountain said.

Some of those people are the volunteers who diligently help set up the food and organize it for the people who need it.

Susie Gardell of the Westside has been volunteering with Gleaners for seven years. …

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