WILKES-BARRE — Tracy Selinga, founder and chairwoman of Fork Over Love, says the only way to end hunger is to create access to food.
“It starts with opening our hearts,” Selinga said.
Fork Over Love began as an emergency response in January 2021 to bridge the gap between two groups of people severely affected by the pandemic—the working poor and small independent restaurants—both of which face different levels and types of food insecurity.
Selinga said the working poor had a hard time putting food on the table, and restaurants had a hard time keeping the ovens on, the staff hired and the doors open.
“We know that food is the foundation of a healthy life and that restaurants are the foundation of a healthy, culturally diverse community,” Selinga said. “We believe that by feeding our neighbors hot, nutritious meals prepared by chefs from small independent restaurant partners, we are creating a socially innovative and responsible solution to nourish our entire community with dignity, grace and strength – physically, mentally, emotionally . , socially, culturally and economically.”
Selinga said Fork Over Love empowers people to change the narrative of food insecurity by feeding their neighbors like family so that all who are struggling can feel safe, secure, seen and fed.
“Love is the currency that binds us together,” she said. “When we share it unconditionally, everyone benefits.”
Selinga said Fork Over Love relies on the generosity of the community — individually and collectively — to feed the community. And, according to her, this generosity comes in many forms.
“We rely on donations, we rely on expertise, we rely on investments of time, energy and compassion so that we can alleviate hunger in all the ways it manifests itself every day,” Selinga said. “It’s not just food—it’s always food and connection—with each other, with our culture, with our shared humanity. It’s about making sure we feed the whole person with dignity and grace.”
Selinga said volunteers talk a lot about the “currency of love” because it’s the center of gravity of Fork Over Love.
“Love of man, love of community,” Selinga said. “We have more than 55 partner restaurants, more than 50 host sites and hundreds of donors and volunteers who quietly work behind the scenes each week to help our restaurants feed our neighbors. There are a lot of moving parts, but it’s extremely easy because we’re not reinventing the wheel to feed each other. We invest in our businesses, where food is always prepared with love, and offer it to those in need.”
Selinga said she believes that’s why so many people step up during the holidays — because they feel the burden and fragility of those who desperately need help getting through these very difficult days.
“Food is at the center of life’s highest and lowest moments,” Selinga said. “We gather around the table to celebrate life, death and everything in between.”
Selinga said Fork Over Love distributed a total of 957 dinners at several locations on Nov. 22, and she said each of them will run out of food.
“We can’t meet the demand in our region, which is heartbreaking,” Selinga said.
100th event celebrated
Selinga said Fork Over Love celebrated its 100th community event on Nov. 22, a day with three distributions planned:
• Pittston Area High School
Supported by the William McGowan Charitable Foundation.
400 lunches — 100 delivered with DoorDash to your home.
Gertrude K. McGowan, Esq., Trustee of the William G. McGowan Charitable Foundation, noted that this is the second year the McGowan Foundation has sponsored the Fork Over Love event.
“This is what the McGowan Foundation is honored to do — to help those in need both during the holidays and year-round,” McGowan said. “No one should go hungry, especially during the holidays. It is our blessing to help those who live in need.”
Leo McGowan, president of the William G. McGowan Charitable Foundation, said, “Our goal is to be good members of the community, and by sponsoring this event and partnering with great organizations like Fork Over Love, we can provide food to those who need it most A season of thanksgiving.”
• Hanover High School
Powered by Discover NEPA.
400 meals were delivered.
• Hazleton direct delivery of two restaurants, Adames Bakery and Restaurant and Rocco’s
Sponsored by Father Jim Paisley, St. Theresa Church, Shavertown.
Selinga said the effort involved more than 30 volunteers, 8 restaurants and 3 donors to serve/deliver 900 meals.
Father Paisley took top honors in the Rectory Set Cook competition, raising $31,500. His parish received half of that, and Father Paisley said he decided to donate it to several organizations, including $3,000 to Fork Over Love.
“I’m not a cook,” said Father Paisley. So the pastor of St. Teresa and St. Francis Cabrini Churches in the Back Mountain enhanced his cup of comforting video by singing Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” and, of course, a little bit of “Let it Snow.”
Father Paisley, who grew up in Hazleton, said hunger has become much more common.
“Hunger is hunger, wherever it is, and it must be satisfied,” he said.
In addition to Hazleton Direct Delivery, Father Paisley also donated to Dinners for Kids, Back Mountain Food Bank at Trucksville United Methodist Church, Hazleton Area Meals on Wheels and Wyoming Valley Meals on Wheels. He also said the St. Teresa’s Trust Fund has purchased gift cards that will be distributed to families in need at the parish.
Veterans are served
Nicole R. Guest has been with the American Legion District 12 for almost 10 years and was the first female District 12 Commander in District 12. She is currently the Vice Commander and also manages the American Legion District 12 Dining Foundation.
Guest, a U.S. Navy veteran, said the 28 American Legion Legions in Luzerne County in District 12 donate to the Canteen Fund, and the money goes to the Veterans Administration in Plains Township, Guest says, “to all our heroes.
“They are the love of our lives,” Guest says of the veterans. “We never leave a brother or a sister. Many in our country could never imagine what many went through in the wars they got into and how horrible it was. I have heard hundreds and hundreds of stories over the past 10 years. They sacrificed so much for our country, our freedom, and our American flag. They deserve to be honored every day for the heroes that they are, and they deserve the best care our country has to offer. They are our family and we will never leave them.”
The guest talks and walks. She hosts parties for VA veterans and all the American Legion volunteers help out. They donate Target and Wal-Mart gift cards to veterans in need.
On Thanksgiving, guests and volunteers will decorate the conference room with balloons and lots of decorations, just like last week at the Veterans Day party they hosted.
The guest said that they will treat the veterans to cabbage, coleslaw, baked beans, smoked kielbasa, as well as pumpkin rolls and pumpkin pie.
A guest never forgets the veterans while spending all holidays at the VA.
“We are always there for every holiday,” Guest said. “Of course, Christmas is a big holiday and we get there at 9 a.m. and we have gift racks where we visit all parts of the VA, including the emergency room, and we give our heroes gifts that have been donated to Boscov’s from their Angel Tree, as well as the thousands and thousands of items donated by the community for our veterans at Christmas.
The guest said that on Christmas and Easter, veterans are treated to a full dinner.
“We accept and pay for everything — all decorations, balloons, food, holiday hats and leis, tablecloths, plates, etc. for all of our veterans,” Guest said. “We also have our DJ Mikey Mike volunteering to play for them.”
Since the pandemic, Guest said volunteers have thrown large parties in the veterans parking lot with bands and singers, and veterans have watched from their windows while volunteers have sent food and treats for them to enjoy while everyone sings along. them in their windows.
Also, once a month they deliver pizza or haggis, boxes of delicious cakes, bags of various potato chips, boxes of their favorite snacks and many other goodies, holiday decorated cupcakes, holiday hats and necklaces for them in all five districts.
“For the past few months we’ve been allowed to have a few of them in the pavilion when the weather’s been warm, and now we’re in a big conference room with a big table every weekend, so we’re changing and doing our best to take turns together with them, – said the Guest. “We ask them what their favorite food is, and for most it’s lobster and steak, so we get the food from our District 12 dining room at Steakhouse Outback, pick it up and deliver it to the VA, and we visit them while they eat your lunch. We also decorated the lobby, which is just off the conference room, with lots of Halloween decorations and recently decorated for Thanksgiving. Many come down to the lobby, there’s a big screen TV downstairs and a fireplace, and it’s just something different for them. We also decorate the conference room so they can enjoy us during the holiday parties.”
“It all makes them feel so special and loved,” Guest said.
Contact Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.