Story by Liesel Schmidt
Can a sandwich change the world?
It’s an interesting question, and one that Be the Good Project answers with a resounding “YES!” Founded in June 2020 by Sterling and Amber Marchand and their four young children in response to the effect that COVID-19 had on food insecurity, what began as a neighborhood food drive collecting canned goods in a plastic box grew into a non-profit organization supported by hundreds of volunteers.
“The mission of Be the Good Project is to provide a safe and simple way for volunteers to help feed our neighbors who are experiencing hunger and food insecurity,” says Amber, who, as a preschool teacher at Aldersgate Day School, uses her organizational and people skills to manage outreach and logistics for the non-profit. Started as a family affair, the project has remained so. Sterling, a litigation partner at Baker Botts, volunteers his expertise in overseeing legal matters and bookkeeping, while their four children help package sandwiches and groceries and assist their parents with deliveries each week.
“Be the Good has brought together a network of hundreds of generous volunteers and donors who have shown that you can take small steps together to make a real difference in our community,” says Amber. “The collective efforts of so many families, scout troops, sports teams, learning pods, church groups, and individual volunteers working together for a common good is both inspiring and impactful. Whether you can make sandwiches, assemble a care package, drop off canned goods, or make a charitable contribution, this is truly a grassroots-led endeavor; and the outcomes have been astounding during this challenging time.”
With so many in need, Be the Good Project is standing in the gap, determined not to let anyone go without food—and the effect has been amazing. Since the summer of 2020, the organization has donated more than 30,000 pounds of food for households in need of supplemental groceries in Alexandria and nearly 47,000 sandwiches for the homeless in Washington, DC.
Even with the challenge of a swelling need over the 2020 holiday season, Be the Good Project rose to the challenge, having successfully coordinated and distributed more than 900 holiday care packages and $11,000 in grocery gift cards. The bags of non-perishable foods were distributed in partnership with more than 20 organizations, including local ACPS and FCPS schools, community centers, and other non-profits across Alexandria.
“Be the Good has shown that you can take small steps together to make a real difference in our community." - Amber Marchand
Currently, core outreach efforts include twice-weekly sandwich deliveries to Martha’s Table, which, in turn, delivers food to the homeless every day in Washington, DC. Each week, Be the Good Project coordinates the refrigeration and delivery of approximately 1,500 volunteer-made sandwiches from Alexandria. “It’s been only nine months, but we’ve made incredible headway,” says Amber. “We have dozens of local food distribution partners and work alongside multiple community centers, non-profits, and neighborhood leaders to bring more food to people during the pandemic.”
Determined not to lose momentum, Be the Change has created additional initiatives, including Amber’s custom portraits, “doodles” that she began drawing in the summer of 2020 to sell on Instagram to help fund the organization. All proceeds are donated by the Marchand family to buy more food in bulk.
The most unique initiative, however, has been the recently launched “Be the Good Little Free Pantry,” an idea spawned by the little neighborhood libraries that have become such a common site—though, instead of books, these are filled every week with food. With the first at Creekside Village, there are more planned for neighborhoods across Alexandria and Northern Virginia in the coming months.
Of course, none of the progress made by Be the Change Project would be possible without their many volunteers and outreach partners. The generosity of the local community has been instrumental, with donations coming from individuals as well as corporations, including funding for holiday care packages from Baker Botts, Narrative Strategies, National Cooperative Bank, American Hospital Association, Roaming Rooster, Arhaus, and many others. There have also been substantial in-kind contributions from Chicken + Whiskey, Boylan’s Bottling, and Overnight Oats Bar.
As much help as they have received, however, the need is never-ending. “We accept contact-free in-kind food donations in Alexandria 24/7—all of which are used for our emergency grocery outreach and neighborhood food distribution events,” says Amber, encouraging the community to continue the generosity they have shown their neighbors in need. “100% of charitable contributions to Be the Good Project are used to buy food or grocery gift cards for families who need supplemental groceries.”
A sandwich really can change the world—and they’re determined to do it, one sandwich at a time.
For more information on volunteer opportunities and donations, visit www.bethegoodproject.org