How it all started...
In 2009, we started Picnic Project with the simple belief that there is enough for everyone if we all share.
After years of burritos under bridges and sandwiches shared on porches and in alleyways, Picnic Project began cooking chef-prepared meals weekly for anyone in the community. After a brief period in local parks, Picnic Project moved indoors and rapidly grew into a weekly gathering of folks from all walks of life: Bread and pastry donations filled tables to the brim; Hot, delicious food filled plates so heavy they required two hands for volunteers to deliver them.
Clothing donations gathered throughout the community were sorted weekly for those who may need a little help dressing for jobs or staying warm in the winter. Birthdays were celebrated, stories were told, and occasionally, enemies found themselves across the table from one another.
This second phase of Picnic Project was a weekly testament to the possibility of a different world – one where everyone belongs, and there is always enough for one more person to pull up a chair. We even had the opportunity to open a client-choice food pantry to provide additional access to fresh foods and the dignity of choosing what’s best for your own family.
In March of 2020, large gatherings everywhere screeched to a gut-wrenching halt. While the world shut down, many lost jobs, and those already struggling were pushed to the brink, many of us had to re-evaluate what was most important. In the late hours of the evening in the middle of March 2020, we knew this to be true: hunger and isolation would only grow in a pandemic world. While we couldn’t host our weekly party meal, we knew we had a new sort of call: make sure that our most vulnerable neighbors weren’t forgotten.
We quickly had to reorganize the way we operated. After years of partnership with Second Harvest Food Bank, we doubled down on our partnership and maximized the amount of food that could be distributed in the community. Because we can purchase some items from them at $0.19/lb, we shifted our budgets and partnered with some key community members to help expand our purchasing from supplies for hot meals to items for groceries. Picnic Project even acquired a refrigerated truck! With a revised distribution model, widespread community support, and the addition of full-time staffing, Picnic Project was able to share half a million pounds of food items during the pandemic!
More than food
Also, you know that food has always been only one part of the story for us. Certainly, everyone deserves to have food in their bellies. And, we already know there is enough to go around, if we share! But hunger wasn’t the only thing that created an ache in our guts. Week after week we heard about the pain of isolation from others, loss of jobs, and grief of losing loved ones.
At food distribution each week, we tried hard to learn everyone’s name and make sure that folks had someone to talk to. We continued to try and offer options so folks could have the dignity of choosing what’s best for their own families. We laughed together, cried together, sorted pallets of meat together and even got vaccinated together with help from the Health Department!
You may remember the story of how our Christmas celebration began – with a commitment that no one would have to spend the holidays alone again. This value of belonging undergirds all that we do.
We have big dreams: Not only do we want to continue providing weekly groceries for our local neighbors struggling to keep food on the table, but we want to help improve health outcomes by ensuring fresh, healthy foods are available, especially in places with unequal access.
Most importantly, you can help write the next chapter of the story of Picnic Project. There is always room at the table.
We are a licensed 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. We operate out of a licensed kitchen with catering certification. We are an equal opportunity provider. ALL ARE WELCOME.
Food & Groceries
Picnic Project has always been centered around the table. While the settings have changed, food is still at the heart of what we do.
FRIDAY FOOD SHARES
We currently have a weekly Food Share at our location in downtown Sanford every Friday from 10-noon. All are welcome.
We also bring food directly into neighborhoods with our Mobile Pantry events.
We fulfill urgent food needs that are referred to us by local agencies including Second Harvest, Sanford Police Department, Advent Health and others.
Health & Wellness
Food and health are inextricably intertwined. Picnic Project believes that we can positively impact the community when we provide nutritious ingredients, cooking tips and recipes, and access to wellness resources.
In partnership with Advent Health, we host a monthly "lunch & learn" featuring a clinical health navigator speaking on a specific topic, with a relevant lunch and a cooking demo, recipes, and giveaways.
We are a proud member of the Healthy Panty Network. Over 80% of the groceries we distribute are considered F2E (Foods to Encourage).
OUR HEALTH PARTNERS
At each of our events and food shares, we have a group of partner agencies that make a number of resources available. They include:
Aspire Health Partners
No Limit Mental Health