In Reston, Virginia, Robert Schnapp is the founder and leader of A Simple Gesture Reston, an effort that inspires and enables his community to help neighbors overcome the growing threat of hunger and food insecurity. Eight years ago, Bob realized that many donors work Monday through Friday “business hours” and that local pantries were mainly open for donations during those same hours, making it a challenge to donate. In the beginning, he served more than 40 hours a week to get the program off the ground, doing everything from signing up donors and drivers, to creating routes, sending emails, delivering bags and picking up groceries, and assisting with sorting.
Bob’s plan was to provide participants with a reusable bag to fill with non-perishable items over the course of two months. They would then place their bags outside to be picked up by volunteer drivers and a replacement bag and grocery list were simultaneously left at each residence. Donations were weighed and sorted by other volunteers. Donations and donor households grew exponentially. Bob was soon orchestrating a program supported by neighbors across northern Virginia.
His inclusion of diverse faith, community, business, family, and age groups among volunteers and donors, along with a core group of committed volunteer leadership, guarantees the program’s longevity, and foreshadows the expansion of such beneficial food programs into other communities.
Bob remains the driving force behind this successful program, which reached 1,500 donor households and approximately 700 volunteers together in the past year to stock the shelves of four emergency food pantries in Reston and Herndon. Since its inception in 2015, the program has provided 900,039 pounds of groceries. This year alone, Bob and his team collected and donated 162,000 pounds (80 tons) of groceries — enough to feed 5,000 families of four for a week. Thanks to his vision and outstanding organizational skills, these individuals and families do not have to decide between paying rent and putting food on the table.
“In the last year alone, the operation Bob put in place delivered more than 4,300 bags of groceries equating to more than 52,000 pounds of food, or about 20% of the non-perishable food we distribute at the SLHS PTSA Food Pantry to students and families,” says Roberta Gosling, co-founder of the South Lakes High School PTSA Food Pantry. “This program is making a huge difference.”
This year the value of food donated was estimated at just under $300,000.00, with a total value since inception of $1.6 million. Bob’s volunteer efforts have shown us all that you can change your community, and the world, one bag at a time.