LA couple ready to expand ‘Famine to Feast’

By Tris DeRoma (LA Monitor)
When the Famine to Feast entity first started out, it was all about directly getting food to the people that needed it the most. Through the organization’s website and app, residents arranged to have unused food they don’t need to be delivered to the people that do.
The organization has since expanded on that idea to include clothing, toiletries and other household items.
Local couple Jaret and Jen McDonald started Famine to Feast about a year ago after they realized they were going to have to throw away much of the unused food they bought while on a vacation.
With no time to drop it off at a food bank before leaving, they thought there had to be a better way.
“We intended Famine to Feast as a person’s last stop,” Jaret McDonald said. “They were either going to throw out the food, or find somebody like us to come and get it.”
Now, a year later, they are ready to expand Famine to Feast to include other locations, and other items.
The McDonalds recently conducted presentations in Santa Fe, Austin, Texas and Los Angeles to get the word out about Famine to Feast and how people can use it to help their neighbors in need. It has not been hard to find volunteers in the cities they’ve visited to help get the word out.
“We started about a year ago, and our primary focus was food,” Jaret McDonald said. “Like all good things, it’s evolved and has become bigger.”
In Los Alamos, the McDonalds could not have progressed as much as they have without local volunteers to help get the word out and help in the picking up and dropping off of food and other items.
“We couldn’t do it by ourselves,” Jen said. “We literally couldn’t take on this idea without the help of other people.”
One of those volunteers is Tonya Sprouse-Mullins.
“I absolutely love being involved with Famine to Feast,” Sprouse-Mullins said. “Helping individuals who have fallen on hard times fills my heart with so much love.”
Sprouse-Mullins and other volunteers working with Famine to Feast helped in a March donation drive for a Compassion Through Action event in Española. Famine to Feast, through the website, the app and social media managed to collect numerous articles of clothing, toiletries, food and other items and deliver it to the Compassion Through Action event.
“At the last event in Española it was a simple ‘new to him’ t-shirt that made one man’s day. Knowing that one small act of kindness can positively impact someone’s life is very powerful.”
The McDonalds also think one of the reasons they’ve been so successful is the concept feeds into people’s desire to help people and their need to transfer the food to someone that needs it right away.
It’s become so popular, the Famine to Feast concept has had a positive impact on the environment.
“We figured that based on the weight of food, canned goods, clothing and other things, we have probably saved Los Alamos County anywhere from a third to a half of a semi truck load of items that would normally go into the landfill,” Jaret McDonald said.
The Famine to Feast App has also evolved. Through the app, people can receive post notifications on what the current needs are, find out where to drop food off make a cash donation, to the tax-exempt organization and order a pick up. The website also features a page where people can fill out and then print a receipt of their donation.
Donations mainly go toward advertising, marketing and other associated costs with getting the word out.
“Marketing is huge. If people don’t know about us, or more importantly, they don’t understand what we do, it can be a challenge,” Jaret McDonald said.
Plans for this year include strengthening their connections.
“We are looking forward to volunteers in the Española area who would like to sign on,”
Jaret McDonald said.
The McDonalds also look forward to further educating the public about what they’re about. That includes the measurable impact the service is having on the environment and the impact it has on the lives it helps.
“We are also in talks with the Environmental Sustainability Board about getting bins where residents can put things in that LA Cares might accept,” Jaret McDonald said. “We would come and pick it up and take it to LA Cares.”
Famine to Feast also submitted an federal application to become a go-between for organizations set up in a disaster area that need food and supplies.
Famine to Feast is an all volunteer, non profit organization.
“We are actually able to see the benefits of our labor,” Jaret McDonald said. “We have something that we can truly help people with. We aren’t just doing this little tiny bit where we don’t see the end result. This food is going to people who need it, these clothes are going to people who need it.”