By Ray McGovern, March 21, 2023
I was a Board member of Bread for the City (president for two years) during the 90s, after I retired from government. Operating out of a trailer at Luther Church in downtown Washington, Bread was still the largest hands-on food pantry in the city. We acquired an old building and empty lot on 7th St., NW and were able to greatly expand our food and medical services there – and eventually to other parts of the city.
It was a shock to read in today’s Washington Post that Bread has had to close for a month. It ate my heart out.
Dr. King put it well: “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death”.
Bread for the City shuts food pantries for a month, citing burnout
The move by the D.C. nonprofit is the latest sign of what nonprofit leaders say is a ‘national crisis’ for the social safety net.
By Kyle Swenson, March 20, 2023
It was not an easy decision but everyone agreed it was the right one. Last week, Bread for the City, the longtime D.C. nonprofit that offers everything from clothing to health care to legal services for struggling individuals and families, announced a time out.
Between March 20 and April 18, the organization will temporarily close down its two free food pantries. The announcement released by the nonprofit noted the weeks away will give staff time for “rest, mourning, reflection, and planning.”
“This was a good time for a pause because we just had three prominent members of our staff pass away in a six month period,” Ashley Domm, the organization’s chief development officer, told The Washington Post. “These were people on the front end of our work, and our people are grieving. It’s hard to do this work in the middle of grief.”
That grief added to the hidden toll on front-line workers at Bread for the City, the latest example of burnout at human service nonprofits across the country. The last three years — bookended by a global pandemic and record inflation — have increased the demands on food pantries, free clinics, shelters and other providers, leaving staff with little or no rest.
“At the start of the pandemic, when everyone was talking about the TV shows they were bingeing and making sourdough, we were working 80 hours,” Domm said. That workload has not eased. According to Domm, before the pandemic began, Bread for the City’s food pantries were serving 250 families a day. Starting in April 2020, that number rose to 1,600 families a day. “We are still at 1,600 a day.”
The organization’s website is offering clients guidance on where to locate food in the meantime such as Martha’s Table and mutual aid groups across the city. …
Cry the Beloved City