For nearly 50 years, Dare To Care has helped feed the food-deprived populace of Greater Louisville. Today, that means nearly 200,000 people – 40% of which come from households where one or more parents are working. These are difficult decisions where people are choosing whether to buy groceries or pay a medical bill, pay for car insurance to get to work, pay for utilities. 

Thanks to Dare To Care, some of this burden is lifted. Through partnerships with over 250 non-profits, community ministries, shelters, and community centers, Dare To Care reaches those in need with healthy produce, dairy, meat, bakery staples, and canned goods.

What does it take to move over 20 million pounds of food around Louisville? Stan Siegwald, Director of Strategic Initiatives for Dare To Care, breaks it down for us.

  • The main warehouse is 55,000 square-feet, and there’s another 20,000 square-foot facility.
  • Their fleet is comprised of 15 refrigerated vehicles that visit each grocer 1-4 times a week.
  • There are 55 regular staff members and 3,000 volunteers.
  • The annual budget is $7.5 million – mostly donated by citizens, businesses and foundations. 

Part of what makes Louisville such a wonderful place to live is the compassion of the local community and all the people dedicated to raising the bar for everyone.

Three years ago, Dare To Care launched a community kitchen in partnership with the Lift-a-Life Foundation. This program serves 2,000 hot, dietician-approved meals to children at community centers, boys and girls clubs, after-school programs, and neighborhood homes each day.

Thanks to the program, kids from struggling neighborhoods are given healthy, hot meals, and are also given access to homework assistance, mentorship, enrichment, and recreation.

In addition to the program, Dare To Care hosts annual events like the Taste of Derby Festival and the Hunger Walk, Run & Row to raise the funds necessary to feed Louisville families.

Dare To Care Podcast Highlights

  • Who is Bobby Ellis, and why did his death cause Louisville residents to march in the streets?
  • Learn how great the need for food assistance in Louisville is.
  • Who is responsible for the generous community response in donations?
  • Find out what it takes to organize and deliver 20 million pounds of food.
  • What is the Dare to Care Community Kitchen in partnership with the Lift-a-Life Foundation?
  • We let you know where to find free meals in Louisville if your family is in need.
  • Louisville, KY residents struggle with difficult financial decisions every day.
  • Find out how you can help.

Dare To Care Food Bank Warehouse

Dare To Care Podcast Transcript:

Welcome to this edition of Perspectives, our look at the fabric of our city and what makes Louisville so interesting and full of possibilities. It’s our take on the trends and events in town, what’s happening and when, and why it’s important to you.

I’m Greg Fleischaker, your host, reminding you to like and share your favorite episodes on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, and if you really want to help us spread the word, please subscribe and leave us a review on iTunes or Stitcher, it really does help.

On today’s episode I’m speaking with Stan Siegwald with Dare to Care Food Bank, a Louisville institution for almost 50 years now. Stan, thanks for coming in today, it’s nice to meet you.

subscribe-via-itunesStan: It’s my pleasure, thanks for having us.

Greg: What do you do with the food bank? What is your title I suppose?

Stan: I have a really fun title of Director of Strategic Initiatives, which means I’m doing something different pretty much every day.

Greg: Keep you on your toes?

Stan: It keeps the other people on their toes I guess, and they keep me in-line. I’ve got a great spot, with a great team of folks doing great work in this community.

Greg: Why don’t you tell us a little bit about Dare to Care, what is it that you do? Let’s start at the beginning, how long have you been in operation?

Stan: Dare to Care really began in 1969. On Thanksgiving Eve, a nine year old boy, Bobby Ellis, died of hunger here in Louisville. Just this incredibly tragic event occurring the night before our community was getting ready to sit down and almost celebrate gluttony, right? Celebrate generosity and celebrate community. The people living here woke up and saw the headline that a nine year old boy had starved to death.

What’s really very uplifting is how our community responded to that. Rather than reacting with complacency and going on with their daily lives, they took action, and as people would want to do in the late 60s, they actually took to the streets. Leaders of many different faiths, Rabbi Waller from the Temple, Father Jack Jones of a Catholic Parish downtown, leaders of many, many faiths actually took to the street and their rallying cry was, “Dare to Care.” They were saying we can’t let this happen in our community again.

From those protests, from those marches, Father Jack had a basement in his church, which was on what was then East Walnut Street, he began to collect food and take it around to different places in his pickup truck. It was kind of take-off time from there. The community latched onto that effort to make sure that nobody in our community would ever be without the food they need to be healthy.

Greg: That’s really interesting, I’d never heard that story. What was it about that one young boy? Was it … I’m sure that something had happened similar in town before. Was it the time of year? Was it just the breaking point, the final piece of straw on the camel’s back?

Stan: Yeah, I think we’d have to go back into that era, it was a pretty turbulent time. I don’t think anything like that had happened for quite a while in our community and so when it did, and then the confluence with when it happened-

Greg: Right before Thanksgiving.

Stan: Yeah, I mean, people were waking up to get ready to go to Grandmas, or Uncles, or Aunts, or host parties where the whole celebration was centered around eating-

Greg: A lot.

Stan: And being generous, and being compassionate, and they found out that here in our city, a child died. He weighed 22 pounds and there were photographs in the paper at the time of his surviving siblings and they were emaciated. I think all that just came together, the time, when the event happened, everything was just ripe for this community to begin to take action and to coalesce around something to make sure we were a great, compassionate community.

Greg: Which ties in nicely with the Mayor, right? Mayor Fischer, who talks about compassion frequently. That was the late 60s, what does Dare to Care look like today?

Stan: Well, we’re quite a bit different from Father Jack’s basement and his pickup truck. The one thing, Dare to Care is this community, so everything we are today is an expression of this community’s continuing commitment that none of our neighbors will be without food, without access to the food they need.

Today, Dare to Care, in the past year we distributed over 20 million pounds of food. We distributed enough food that would make 17 million meals that went into Kentuckiana and the greater Louisville area. We work out of a 55,000 square foot warehouse, we have a second warehouse of about 20,000 square feet. We have a fleet of about 15 refrigerated vehicles and we have partnerships with over 250 other non-profits in town, from area community ministries, to shelters, to community centers. We provide food to them so that they can help the families that are coming there to seek services from their locations.

Greg: Some of these places you’re talking about, they collect the names and the families and the people who need the help, and you deliver … Are they cooked? What do you actually deliver?

Stan: No. It’s food that will … It’s not prepared food, okay, so it would be surplus food that we’re getting from farmers, we’re getting from the food industry, from grocery stores, from wholesalers, from-

Greg: You’re talking fresh produce?

Stan: Of the 20 million pounds of food, well over 1/3 of that was fresh fruits and vegetables. We did over 7 million pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables, over a million of those pounds were from local farms.

Greg: You’re talking such big numbers, I’m having trouble visualizing that. Are you picking up … I mean that has to be a lot of farmers contributing during the growing seasons and a lot of people, right? It’s not just farmers, it’s going to be citizens because you’ve seen the canned food, I’ve seen the canned food drives, so you’re doing a lot of that as well. What does it look like? Hopefully you can share a couple pictures from your warehouse to give people an idea of what we’re talking about.

Stan: Sure, be happy to. Put yourself in our warehouse. What that looks like is a big version of Sam’s or Costco, it’s a big warehouse with bins stacking 3 high. Each warehouse bin is going to have something different in it. One bin will be a pallet that is all of canned green beans that came from Stokely because the tint on the can is the wrong tint, so they’re not going to sell it at retail, it gets donated to a food bank and it gets trucked into Dare to Care where we put it in that bin and then we get it out to one of our partners to distribute to families.

The next bin could be shrink wrapped with a bunch of boxes from a food drive. Then let’s go back and we’ve got a big refrigeration unit that’s filled with fresh produce. It could be filled with a big bin of cabbage, another one a big bin of carrots, another one with watermelon or green peppers. It’s just a huge distribution facility, just like you would see at Sam’s or if you went out to a much smaller version of what you would find at UPS.

Dare To Care Food Bank fresh produce picture

That food comes into our warehouse, some of it we pay for trucks to bring it in to us, others our trucks will go out and retrieve. Every retail grocer in town just about, our trucks will be there once, twice, sometimes three or four times a week picking up food that those retailers are no longer going to sell. Meat, dairy, produce from those grocery stores and we bring it back to our facility to sort it and distribute it again to all those community partners we have that help the families that are struggling right now to put food on the table.

Greg: It sounds like you have a big staff. I mean this is not a couple people working the warehouse right? How many people are working?

Stan: That’s right. We now have over 55 staff members, I think I said we have a fleet of 15 trucks. What’s really neat, and I think it continues to be a reflection of us being a community organization is that only six percent of all the resources we receive go to what some people would call overhead, go to administrative and fundraising expenses. That’s a pretty remarkably low percentage.

Greg: Well, if you don’t mind, can we talk about money a little bit?

Stan: Sure, sure.

Greg: I’m guessing that the 55 people working for Dare to Care are not all volunteers.

Stan: No, no.

Greg: Okay. I’m also assuming that the food, that the families that you’re helping are not paying.

Stan: No, no.

Greg: So we got to find money for this operation somewhere, how does that work? What does that look like?

Stan: Well, if we have 55 people and we’re moving over 20 million pound of food, that’s a pretty lean machine. We do rely on volunteers, we get probably over 3,000 people that volunteer each year that help with our operation, sorting food, repacking food.

Greg: Are these people who come in a serve one day, or do have repeat people who come in every Monday afternoon?

Stan: All that. We have volunteers that we know well because they’re there at least once a week. Then we rely heavily on groups that come from businesses, from churches, and from community organizations.

Greg: All right, I keep interrupting.

Stan: That’s okay.

Greg: You have volunteers helping out?

Stan: Mm-hmm (affirmative). You’re right, all that operation requires cash and our community steps up to support Dare to Care. Our cash operating budget is about 7.5 million dollars and that comes from any source we can find in this community. It comes from foundations, from businesses, and from individuals.

Greg: Does any of it come from government funds?

Stan: We receive a little bit from the government and that is part of a contract for service for distributing USDA commodities.

Greg: Okay, if anyone’s confused, you’re not a city agency or anything along those lines?

Stan: No. We’re not a city agency.

Greg: Then, do you have fundraisers or things like that, or people just regularly send checks in and drop money off?

Stan: Oh, we love it when people regularly send a check.

Greg: If someone wants to I’m sure you’ll let us know how, right?

Stan: Well they can go to our website at daretocare.org and you can sign up for monthly giving. We raise money through events, we have Taste Of Derby festival, which is on April 25th this year. We have the Hunger Walk, which will be celebrating its 40th year this year and will now be the Hunger Walk, RunAand Row, and will include our voyager canoe world championships, that’s October 1st. We have direct mail campaigns that go out around town, they’re a very cost effective way for us to give the community members opportunities to support us. We’re just out there making requests, and doing podcasts, and letting folks know about what we’re doing and how they can pitch-in and help.

Greg: Then, looking at everything that’s coming in and everything that’s going out, do you feel … Is there a greater need in the community than what you guys are able to put together? Do you need to grow to actually fulfill the need or is it a pretty good fit at this point? Or are you guys sort of ahead of the game?

Stan: We need more food and we need to continue to work to improve the quality of our food. When the economy crashed in 2008, from that period forward, the need for food assistance in our community, the number of people in our community suffering food insecurity doubled. There are now nearly 200,000 people in greater Louisville who suffer food insecurity or food hardship. What that means is that they struggle from day-to-day to access the food they need to lead a healthy and successful life.

Greg: These are kids too, right? Kids-

Stan: Yeah, one in five children in our community. The need is mind boggling. When you said the numbers of how much we distribute, it’s hard to get your brain around it, and it is, we talked 20 million pounds. It’s even harder I think to get your mind around the fact that so many people in our community are struggling to get the most basic of life’s need. With nearly 200,000 people, it’s in every zip code, it’s in every neighborhood. We have recent data that shows that of those 200,000 people, about 40% of them live in households where someone’s working, and where they have an income that’s too high for them to qualify for any public assistance.

Their kids are not getting meals at lunch, they are not qualifying for SNAP or food stamps, and yet they struggle to … they make decisions every day whether to pay the light bill or pay for groceries. Whether to pay for car insurance so they can keep their job, or pay for groceries. Pay for medical bills or pay for groceries. It’s a stunning number of people. You asked Greg, are we doing enough now? I’m very proud of the work Dare to Care does, I think our community should be very proud but we need to do more and we need to do better.

Dare To Care Kids Cafe picture

Greg: That sounds like a fair answer. If someone’s listening and they’re not already part of the organizations that are … some of the beneficiaries of your efforts, how do they go about getting on a list or receiving some food? If someone is struggling, if someone is insecure in that department, what is the best way for someone to get in touch with you guys or who do they need to get in touch with to start receiving some benefits?

Stan: Well, if someone needs food assistance, what we would try to do is connect them with someone in their neighborhood. Hopefully it will be an organization that can help them with whatever needs they have beyond food. The best way for folks to find help, they can go to our website at daretocare.org and they can follow links there. They can call us at 502-966-3821. There’s also a neat app called GotFood, and if they have a mobile device, a smartphone, and can download that app, they can enter their zip code and find all of our partners that would be in their neighborhood.

Before we go, one thing I would like to mention, we talked about that we need to do more food and we need to do better food and healthier food. One of our great new projects we launched three years ago is the Dare to Care Community Kitchen in partnership with Lift-a-Life Foundation.

This is a program where we have a kitchen facility that produces nearly 2,000 meals every day. Hot, balanced, nutritious dinners that are then placed in temperature controlled Cambros, go onto trucks, and get delivered to nearly 40 after-school sites around town. They go to Metro Parks Community Centers, Boys and Girls Clubs, places like Neighborhood House.

2,000 hot, balanced, warm meals a day they get out into this community to help kids get the food they need to be healthy. More than that, by delivering them to places like Boys and Girls Clubs, we’re helping to empower those after school programs so they can attract kids from struggling neighborhoods into their facility and not only feed them food, but feed them other things they need like homework assistance, mentorship, structured recreation, and enrichment activities. That’s a great new program, it takes resources but we’ve had great partners with that, we had Lift-a-Life Foundation and it’s just a fabulous program.

Greg: I’m glad you brought that up before we run out of time because usually I pick up, anytime someone says something about food quality I’m all over it. Real quickly, what do you mean when you say food quality? Are we trying to get away from packaged Twinkies? That doesn’t really count right?

Stan: Yeah, somewhere our registered dietician’s eyelids are twitching. That’s exactly right. At the kitchen, you’re going to see the chefs chopping up fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, we don’t have a deep fryer in that kitchen. It’s preparing food that is not processed, it’s fresh, and it’s healthy, and it’s balanced so that kids are getting the protein, and the vegetables, and the fruit that they need at least in one meal each day.

Greg: Is this true of the warehouse as well or is that a harder climb than the fresh food, trying to make that healthy? Is the warehouse a little bit tougher?

Stan: Yes and no. That is a constant effort we make to make that food as healthy as possible. That’s reflected in the volume of fresh fruits and vegetables. We do have a dietician on-site that participates in decisions about what food comes into our warehouse. The kitchen food, we buy all that food, the food coming into the warehouse is donated and we try to be as strategic as possible with that and that is an ongoing effort. I think we’re doing a great job, I do think we can continue to work to get better and better at that.

Greg: All right, well Stan, thanks for coming in today and sharing that information. One more time, how about your website just in case somebody didn’t get it.

subscribe-via-stitcherStan: Sure, it’s daretocare.org.

Greg: Thank you very much for coming in today.

Stan: Sure, thank you.

Greg: Thank you for joining perspectives this week presented by Lenihan Sotheby’s International Realty. If you have an idea for a future episode or think you might like to participate, please contact us at podcast@lsir.com for more information and please if you like this series, make sure to subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher. Then leave us a review and share and like on all your favorite social media channels. You can find more episodes like this one, as well as all available homes for sale in the Louisville market at our website, lsir.com.