As we approach the end of the year and reflect on all that CJ has accomplished, we want to share stories from our community. We sat down with Ryan Bigg, Food Pantry Coordinator at Intown Collaborative Ministries (ICM) – one of CJ’s partners. Ryan is an Atlanta native and an Emory grad. He has spent his career in nonprofit work, moving between food insecurity, homelessness services, and youth development.
Ryan started at ICM in 2020 in the early days of the pandemic as a housing navigator. Now he works on the food programs for ICM. Ryan said the most rewarding part of the job is seeing people’s reactions and appreciations to the food they serve and prepare, “I enjoy talking to people and meeting them where they are in their journey.” We keep hearing from our partner organizations: people come for the food but they stay for the community and sense of connection.
We asked Ryan for a favorite memory while working at the pantry, and a story immediately came to mind. He told us: “It’s not necessarily pantry related – but there was a client that I have a pretty good relationship with. And it was the day that Porchfest was playing and you could hear it in the background [from the food pantry]. And he was like, ‘Hey, what’s that music?’ And I said, ‘oh yeah, that’s the Virginia Highland Porchfest. They do it every year. You should go check it out. It’s free. You can go walk the streets and hang out.’ And then I saw him the next day. And he was like, ‘Ryan, I went there. And I danced. And that was the first time I’ve danced in 10 years. Thank you for giving me the confidence to go out there and enjoy it.’”
When it comes to the food, Ryan says it’s hugely helpful to have Concrete Jungle’s produce for their clients. Intown Collaborative Ministries is a client-choice food pantry. This means that instead of getting a bag of pre-selected food, clients get to walk through a market and pick which food items and produce they want. Ryan said, “Concrete Jungle provides a lot of produce, and being able to provide people with that number of options is always helpful. I’m finding it more recently where people are not coming for the bag of food, they’re coming through the line just asking for produce.”
The demand for fresh produce remains high at our partner hunger relief agencies. When you make a gift to Concrete Jungle before the end of the year, you’re getting the most nutritious produce in town to families who would otherwise not have access. You can make a gift at http://donorbox.org/mapthefruit