By Eileen Budo, COO

I am getting tired of worrying about, thinking about, even dreaming about COVID.  It seems like the story of the troublesome relative who has overstayed his welcome! This past weekend, I had a COVID scare – my daughter, who is a teacher, was exposed to her housemate, another teacher, who tested positive.

As I thought through the changes that would have to be made to holiday plans, hope was a virtue that kept me going. Hope that Kateri would get a second negative result, indicating she was in the clear. Hope that my gifts, now mailed instead of presented in person, would arrive on time. Hope that the engagement party could happen as planned. Hope that my mother could still come to stay for a week and join my daughter and me as we shop for wedding dresses.

Hope Pervading

Here we are at the end of 2021, and COVID is still topping the headlines much the same way it was when I wrote my first blog post for Last Mile Food Rescue in mid 2020. As I look back at the first year of operations at Last Mile, I can see signs of hope that pervaded just about everything we did. As a Start-up, you do all you can to read the market and plan for the known and unknown – learning and pivoting as you go.

We hoped we would find enough volunteers to help us rescue all the food we hoped was out there. We hoped the people we hired to be part of the Last Mile Team would love the mission as much as the founders and demonstrate the skills we needed to make the business model work. We hoped the app would work as planned, hoped that agencies and funders would want to take a chance on an unknown, untested model such as ours.

Hope Causing Growth

It hasn’t been easy, but by now, just like we’ve all learned how to wear masks and perhaps we’ve finally figured out how to take ourselves off mute before launching into a response on Zoom, we’ve made it through our first year of rescuing good, healthy food and getting it to those who need it most. We’ve rescued a lot of food – our hope that we would save 350,000 lbs was surpassed in a magnificent way! Over 775 volunteer food rescue heroes – our neighbors and friends – have gone the mile with us 9500 times in 2021!  We’ve picked up and dropped off close to 1,700,000 lbs of good healthy food to those in need this year.

And as we plan for 2022, we continue to hope!

The team at Last Mile has learned a lot about our city and the incredibly generous people who call themselves Cincinnatians. We continue to hope that all we accomplished together this past year will be surpassed in 2022. Although we’ve made mistakes and often learned the hard way, we’ve found out that there are so many food companies who are happy to donate if we just make it easy for them. We’ve learned that there are so many people who are more than happy to give an hour each week to pick up some of that food and bring it to those who need it. And we’ve learned that a team of dedicated employees who add a healthy amount of hope to their hard work can solve just about any problem they face.

I hope all of you have a healthy and happy holiday season! I hope you will continue to get out there and go the mile to rescue food. I hope you will get your friends and family involved in this awesome cause – no matter how – I hope that someday soon, we will longer waste food and that no one will experience hunger.

I hope that soon, very soon, we can see the end to this problem of food insecurity and food waste, and I hope you will be a part of that solution.

Happy New Year! Welcome 2022!!!