Wednesday, July 11, 2007
S.H.A.R.E. Food Program
S.H.A.R.E., or Self-Help and Resource Exchange, is a nonprofit organization that offers groceries at reduced cost through a volunteer-run, community-based distribution system. S.H.A.R.E.’s mission is to build and strengthen community through volunteer service.
Originally started by a pastor in San Diego, S.H.A.R.E. has lost funding in many parts of the country. However, it's still going strong in certain regions. Unlike food banks or other emergency programs, there are no income requirements and everyone can participate. When it first began, distributing organizations requested two hours of volunteer service each month. Now that requirement has been eliminated and the organization simply "encourages" volunteering.
Today, sponsoring organizations (sometimes churches or an established S.H.A.R.E. non-profit) obtain food in bulk. They receive items through donations, purchasing surplus products or food that has damaged packaging, etc. (The food is always safe. It's just sometimes not fit for picky grocers who are more interested in a perfect looking product.) Participants order packages for about 1/3 of the traditional cost. Most bags of groceries from S.H.A.R.E. cost $14-$20 (cash or food stamps) and participants can order as many bags as they'd like.
Some S.H.A.R.E. programs even offer meats and organic produce at their extremely inexpensive rates. When good cuts of meat become available, you can purchase several packages and freeze for later use. The intent of S.H.A.R.E. is to help families stretch their food dollars while encouraging volunteering. So, if there is a S.H.A.R.E. program available in your area, make sure to honor the intention by offering a couple of volunteer hours each month to your favorite organization or neighbor.
I was able to find S.H.A.R.E. groups in the following regions (just click on the region and follow the links. Some areas are duplicated due to several host sites):
Washington, DC; Maryland and Virginia
Wisconsin, northern Illinois and the upper peninsula of Michigan
Eastern North Caroline (phone number contact)
Spring Valley and Haverstraw, NY
Eastern Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, Metro NY and the MD Eastern Shore
San Diego, CA
The Volunteer Center of Story County in Aimes, Iowa: 515-268-5323
The Nevada Community Resource Center (NCRC) in Nevada, Iowa: 515-382-1600
For regions not listed, try scrolling to the bottom of the page HERE and calling the number listed in your area. Please also note that you should follow up to make sure all of the centers highlighted above are still providing the program (I love y'all, but I didn't call every single one). In my hunt, I found that many on the West Coast had been closed. You can also check your local food bank or houses of worship to see if the S.H.A.R.E. program is being offered in your area. Because it is often a small, volunteer-run operation, they may have no website available. If you know of a distribution site not listed, please let me know!