Food is in the forefront of Julia Erickson's thoughts daily, and not because she used to be in the catering business or because she is a gourmand — although both of those are true.
As director of City Harvest, the country's largest and longest-running food rescue agency, Erickson focuses on feeding as many people in need as she can. And despite the agency's extraordinary growth, it's never enough.
Erickson, a member of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, New York, joined City Harvest almost 10 years ago. "I was raised a pastor's kid (her father is retired ELCA pastor John D. Erickson), so mission has always been a motivator for me," she said. "This job allows me to use my skills and abilities to literally feed people, which should be our highest priority in the world."
City Harvest picks up food from restaurants, bakeries, caterers and other businesses. It speedily delivers the perishable items to emergency food programs.
When Erickson joined City Harvest, it served 133 food programs, helping to feed 33,000 people a week. This year, City Harvest delivered 21 million pounds of food to 800 programs, feeding 200,000 people a week. The staff has grown from 28 to 87 in the last decade and the annual operating budget rose from $2 million to $10 million.
"We receive no government funding," Erickson said. "Sixty percent of our funds come from individuals who understand that hunger should be completely unacceptable in our society."
Erickson said her faith keeps her going during the hardest times: "It helps me to know on days when we don't meet our budget or we've had to say no to an agency on our waiting list, that there is a divine plan and God will provide. We must make sure that everyone in our society has enough to eat. ... This is a problem to which there are solutions."
To learn more about City Harvest, visit www.cityharvest.org.
© 2014 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers