In March of 2020, in direct response to the COVID-19 pandemic, RTB launched Manifest Love — a collaborative endeavor with YWCA Southeastern MA, Youth Opportunities Unlimited (Y.O.U.), and NorthStar Learning Centers which put healthy, local foods on the tables of families in New Bedford. The Executive Directors of these respective organizations – Desa Van Laarhoven, Gail Fortes, Bernadette Souza, and Maria Rosario – decided that RTB would provide free weekly food shares from early March 2020 to mid December to approximately 125 local families directly connected to the New Bedford organizations. Together we grew, gleaned, sourced, and distributed nutritious, organic, local food. We also created new and relevant educational resources, including videos, blogs and letters, which were sent out with the shares each week. Our partners at the YWCA meticulously translated each letter and video into Spanish and Portuguese for accessibility; NorthStar Learning Centers picked up the food shares every week at RTB and delivered them with love; and Y.O.U. provided cooking classes for children whose families receive shares through their program.
Due to the success of Manifest Love in 2020, the project continued into 2021: for 30 weeks from May through December we delivered shares to 100+ families. Since the beginning of the Manifest Love project in 2020, we have donated over 70,000 pounds of produce and local organic products. Looking forward, this project and collaboration will continue to grow and expand. Manifest Love will be starting its third season in the spring of 2022 and in late summer 2022 we will be acquiring a Manifest Love Food Truck. We are very excited about all of the new opportunities that the food truck will bring for the Manifest Love project and for the community!