The Angels Amongst Us

September 21st, 2011 | Simcha Weinstein | 1 Comment »

Greetings from Baltimore, MD – home to this year’s Natural Product Expo East. Today is the last day of setup, and then let the show begin. It’s interesting being totally immersed in the food scene for 4 consecutive days. You’re talking with vendors about food, talking with customers about food, sampling and nibbling new products, and then dining with industry partners in the evening. It’s all food, all the time. Even as I was setting up the booth today, I began thinking – “what is my favorite food experience at the show?” With very little deliberation, I found myself drawn to a particular experience that I typically encounter at the end of the show. The nibbling, the dining, and the conversations have all disappeared. The show floor has emptied and a few of us remain, breaking down our booths and closing out the show experience. About an hour and a half after the doors have closed, a group of unassuming men and women with a large container on wheels approach our booth. They typically wear shirts that identify themselves as having a connection with the community food bank or soup kitchen. With very little fanfare they empty the racks and bins of our booth, say thank you, and quietly move along. That is my favorite food moment of the show.

During the show, we are focused on food – organic, sustainable food. It feels pretty good. We’re in a bubble that nurtures our commitment to organic and natural foods. For a few days it feels like our vision for a sustainable food system is actually making serious inroads into the conventional marketplace. And then, the soup kitchen appears. Suddenly you realize that the real issue isn’t organic vs. conventional food. The bigger issue isn’t how our food is grown (although it is incredibly important). No, the real issue is making sure everyone has enough food. If you don’t have enough food to eat on a regular basis, chances are you’re not going to be very concerned about how the food was grown. Your only concern is hoping that there will be a next meal.

The wonderful people who have committed themselves to working and/or volunteering at Food Banks truly get it. They don’t have a booth at the Expo, and they won’t be walking the show floor over the next few days. Rather, they will be serving meals throughout the week to those who are struggling to survive. They are more than just good people or heroes; they are the Angels amongst us.