Cruise line VP views massive donation distribution
Bahamas Feeding Network’s Exec Director tells Royal Caribbean ‘You are the wind beneath our wings’
With a senior executive of Royal Caribbean looking on, the Bahamas Feeding Network did what it does best today – distributing parcels packed with food that will feed thousands for the next two weeks.
In some ways, today’s distribution was much the same as always, the culmination of hundreds of volunteer hours lifting, hauling, packaging and loading food parcels into vehicles or arms of individuals who depend on the supplies to feed a family that might otherwise go hungry.
But today’s event at the Fox Hill Community Centre, one of three locations the Bahamas Feeding Network uses as a distribution site, came with a difference. Its major corporate donor, Royal Caribbean International, was on hand to witness the process and the level of mutual respect between donor and recipient was matched only by the gratitude of those receiving hearty meat and groceries.
“From the first time we saw the work of the Bahamas Feeding Network when you and dozens of volunteers were preparing and boxing hot meals in the humble Moseff House cottage down the road, we were super impressed,” Royal Caribbean Vice President Russell Benford told the Network’s Executive Director and many of the volunteers.
Since its first donation of $25,000, the cruise line has upped its support annually, first to $100,000, then in 2019, quadrupling it to $400,000. Royal Caribbean repeated the generous donation in 2020, despite the complete lockdown of the cruise industry following the COVID outbreak.
“We were blown away by the fact that even when they were totally shut down, they remained committed to helping feed the hungry,” said Smith.
With the dramatic spike in unemployment during the COVID pandemic, the Bahamas Feeding Network took on an expanded role, serving as one of the integral partners in the National Food Distribution Task Force, currently distributing to 5000 families, or 20,000 individuals every two weeks.
Royal Caribbean’s most recent donation was its most generous to date – 20, 40-foot containers filled from front to back and floor to ceiling with meat and another container with groceries.
“The meat that we include in each of the parcels we distribute has a value of $25,” Smith explained. “We are now able to replace this meat parcel with your donated meat and as a result we save $125,000 every distribution. So thanks to this donation by Royal Caribbean, we are now able to assist approximately 3,100 more families.”
Bahamas Food Services, Solomon’s and Super Value have all pitched in, allowing the Feeding network to plug in the containers in various locations on their properties to keep the meat at the required temperature as the Bahamas Feeding Network searches for a permanent home or land on which it can build.
But, according to Smith, much of what it has accomplished in the battle against hunger that even before the pandemic affected one in every seven persons in The Bahamas would not have been possible without the support of Royal Caribbean,
“We thank you very, much for all that Royal Caribbean does for the Bahamas Feeding Network,” Smith told Benford as special guests including Patron Patricia Minnis, President & CFO of Arawak Port Development Limited Dion Bethell, President Sysco Bahamas Food Services Karen Casey and President Super Value Debra Symonette looked on. “You are truly the wind beneath our wings.”