The Pony Delivers Internationally, Insights from the Vatican and Mexico
Updated: Mar 22
It’s been a busy month at White Pony Express! You might recall that in our February newsletter, I talked about the growing interest in our model from other countries. I just returned from a productive planning session in Mexico, which was supported by Women Forward International and involved a university team in Mexico City. The student team will conduct a feasibility study, and their research will inform the potential launch of a food rescue initiative appropriate to Mexico’s unique needs, resources, community structure, and culture.
I was also recently invited to travel to the Vatican. Pope Francis is committed to reducing food waste and feeding the hungry. In 2021, WPE worked with a team that successfully launched a food rescue initiative in Rome. I had never set foot in Europe, but during the February visit, I ended up face-to-face with Pope Francis himself! Doors have opened – and we have simply said “yes” to sharing our model and supporting our one human family.
These two events could not have been predicted! Although I was able to accept both invitations, and the meetings were productive and inspiring, our real work remains focused on the Bay Area. Our team and cherished volunteers have been tireless in their efforts to meet the demand for healthy food and essential supplies across the county. As many of you may have heard, the emergency SNAP benefits that millions of Californians received due to the pandemic expired at the end of February. This is devastating for many of our neighbors who depended on that extra support. As a result, we have experienced increased demand for our services.
We need your help to meet the growing need. If you have food to donate, please get in touch with us by emailing DonateFood@WhitePonyExpress.org, and if you are interested in joining our network of volunteers, please send a message to our volunteer coordinator at Volunteer@WhitePonyExpress.org.
White Pony Express Goes to Rome – And Meets the Pope!
In 2019, Pope Francis convened a panel of experts whose focus was to appeal to world leaders and their governments, urging them to commit to halving food waste and loss by 2030. He felt that what was happening was morally, economically, and environmentally unacceptable. In his words: “We must put an end to the culture of food waste. We who pray to the Lord to give us our daily bread.” He also said that “to throw food away means to throw people away” – that it is a moral obligation to ensure everyone has enough food, which includes avoiding food loss and waste. These statements, of course, resonate with us.
In 2021, White Pony Express had the opportunity to meet virtually with a group at the Vatican to help them launch their own food rescue program and to aid them in actualizing the Pope’s vision. Soon after our meeting, they successfully completed their first ‘rescue’ from a local fruit and vegetable market. This provided enough produce for their soup kitchen and a surprise delivery to another religious organization serving the unhoused.
Fast forward to February of this year, when our Executive Director was invited to the Vatican to celebrate their successes and extend our gratefulness for their commitment to eliminating food waste and hunger.
“It was an unbelievable honor to visit the Vatican, meet Pope Francis, and share how thankful we are,” said Executive Director Eve Birge. “White Pony Express stands ready to support all groups at every level – locally, nationally, and internationally – in their earnest efforts to serve our one human family.”
Congressman Garamendi Meets with White Pony Express to Discuss Community Impact
On March 7th, Congressman Garamendi met with White Pony Express Executive Director Eve Birge and Operations Manager Ana Bostick to learn more about WPE’s impact on the communities he represents.
“55% of recipients served by White Pony Express live in Congressman Garamendi’s district,” said Executive Director Eve Birge. “We know how dedicated the Congressman is to ensuring that his communities have access to fresh, healthy food and that he is a proponent of stopping wasteful food habits. We’re thankful to meet with him to discuss our operations and our mutual commitment to ending hunger.”
The meeting took place at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School in Pittsburg, the site of one of WPE’s School Pantry Programs. Every Monday, WPE delivers 1-2 pallets of fresh, healthy food totaling 2,000 pounds per month. This school year, we have supplemented regular deliveries with a whole chicken and a dozen eggs for each family.
“Many of our MLK families have to choose between paying the bills and buying food. I am very thankful for our partnership with White Pony Express. They provide weekly food support for our scholars, their families, and the community,” said Ana Perez, the school’s Community Liaison. “All are food insecure, homeless, or in need of ongoing assistance. White Pony Express not only helps scholars and their families with food, but also with toiletries and even new clothes.”
“We would like to thank Principal Winford and the amazing team that coordinates the pantry for hosting our meeting with Congressman Garamendi,” Birge continued. “This Pittsburg pantry was our first, and it’s a perfect demonstration of our collaborative community impact. With the fresh selection of groceries from WPE, students and their families are poised to thrive!”
White Pony Express Joins Forces with Women Forward International
Did you know that one-third of all food produced is wasted? How about that food loss is one of the root causes of hunger worldwide? In Mexico, millions of people experience hunger due to a lack of access to fresh, nutritious food. Research shows that women and girls are among the most vulnerable to hunger in Mexico and across the globe.
Over three years ago, through programs with Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley, WPE connected with Women Forward International (WFI), a partner of the United Nations, to bring together the next generation from leading universities and put research into service to the world. WFI’s goal is to “create unique partnerships that lead to behavioral changes that advance women to advance humanity.”
“Through our partnership, student teams from Stanford and Berkeley researched and presented findings that aim to help us expand our efforts to support women and girls, ensuring they have consistent access to healthy, fresh foods,” said Executive Director Eve Birge. “This collaboration aims to harness WPE’s proven success in identifying fresh, healthy surplus and ensuring immediate, high-quality, customized deliveries. It also builds out a strategy to help scale our model internationally.”
This year, a university team under WFI’s direction will implement a feasibility study based in Mexico to determine how a food rescue model might be successfully envisioned and implemented.
White Pony Express Receives Education Champion Award from the Contra Costa County Office of Education
White Pony Express would like to thank the Contra Costa County Office of Education for presenting us with the “Education Champion Award”. After the Golden Gate Community Schools reopened post-pandemic, Principal Doug Corbin contacted us to help address the substantial increase in food insecurity among students and families. “At WPE, we know there is enough fresh, healthy food to go around – You just need to connect the bounty to the need,” said Executive Director Eve Birge. “That’s what we’re here for! We are privileged to be part of Principal Corbin and the entire team’s earnest efforts to provide for the remarkable students in their care.”
Principal Corbin’s call for help turned into a long-standing relationship as we now provide weekly food service to each of Golden Gate’s campuses in Pittsburg, Brentwood, and Richmond. We deliver fresh fruits, vegetables, sandwiches, snacks, and prepared meals from local establishments like Starbucks, Whole Foods, and Trader Joe’s.
Principal Corbin shares, “The partnership between White Pony Express and Golden Gate has been nothing short of amazing. White Pony Express is helping Golden Gate in our efforts to be more responsive to the needs of the communities we serve. We are appreciative of the quality of the food and other resources provided. White Pony Express is a great community resource, and Golden Gate is happy that our partnership is beneficial for both organizations.”
The White Pony Express Fleet is Growing!
You heard it here first: The White Pony Express mobile fleet is gaining extra wheels! Anyone who has been to our distribution center understands that refrigerated vehicles and drivers are the keys to our success. Much of WPE’s lean budget is dedicated to fleet upkeep, maintenance, and fuel. And if we want to serve more hungry people, we need to expand the size of our fleet.
We’re delighted to announce that on March 29th, Whole Foods Market is donating a fully stocked refrigerated van to WPE. Further, the Lamorinda Sunrise Rotary will purchase a new transit for WPE that will be game-changing in terms of the increased amount of food we will be able to pick up and deliver.
And our expansion doesn’t stop there! In 2022, our strategy for the White Pony General Store shifted to focusing on pop-up mobile boutiques as a core offering. Through a grant from the Wayfarer Foundation, we have obtained and outfitted a new vehicle with the goal of hosting regular pop-up boutiques in east and west counties.
“This growth couldn’t come at a more opportune time,” said Executive Director Eve Birge. “Awareness about our services has spread, and as a consequence, many agencies that feed hungry people are reaching out to WPE for support. The end of emergency SNAP benefits has made it more difficult for our neighbors in need to feed their families – especially with the high cost of groceries due to rising inflation.”
A recent article by ArcaMax points to the fact that “eligible households will lose at least $95 a month in benefits, with some seeing their benefits dip as low as $23 a month.”
“This sudden end to needed food benefits is a major loss to so many,” Birge continued. “This will significantly impact the already high demand for our services.”
All of us at White Pony Express would like to send a BIG thank you to Shake Shack for selecting our organization as their fundraising and food rescue partner in their mission to Stand for Something Good. Together we can ensure that no one suffers from want when there is a means of aiding them. Shake Shack sold 1,785 sandwiches on their opening day – which meant $1,785 for WPE!
Are you ready to put your love into action to help us deliver the abundance and ensure no more individuals suffer from want? There are a number of ways you can get involved with White Pony Express today.
For more information about our Food Rescue Program, visit www.WhitePonyExpress.org/Food-Rescue.
To support community members through the White Pony Express General Store, visit www.WhitePonyExperess.org/Free-General-Store.
To offer a monetary gift of support, visit www.WhitePonyExpress.org/Donate-Funds.
And, to share the gift of time, you can learn more about our volunteer opportunities by visiting www.WhitePonyExpress.org/Volunteer.