Meet Lori Gooch

Marketing Coordinator, Sanford Health Plan

Most of Lori Gooch’s Sunday mornings begin early. Even before the sun comes up she’s behind the wheel, already on a mission.

“I leave my house by a quarter to six,” Lori says. “On my day to sleep in – I don’t.”

An early departure puts Lori at her first stop at 6 a.m., right when the Coffee & Bagels shop opens. She hefts bags of yesterday’s fresh bagels into the back of her vehicle before continuing on to do the same at three more shops in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

“On an average Sunday, I will pick up 250 pounds of bagels, which pretty much fills the back of my Honda CRV,” she says.

Then, after her final pickup, Lori finishes her route with drop-offs in downtown Sioux Falls. This routine is something Lori does every week as a volunteer for Bread Break, a food-harvesting mission run by members of Messiah New Hope Lutheran Church.

Bread Break partners with cafeterias, caterers, restaurants and other businesses to collect unused food and redistribute it throughout the community.

When Lori first heard about Bread Break, the couple that started the organization was just reaching the point where they couldn’t do it all by themselves anymore. They needed volunteers.

“They were finding a lot of places willing to donate food and a lot of places that needed it,” Lori explains.

Over the years Bread Break has continued to grow, and the ministry now works with more than 48 suppliers to deliver over 21,000 pounds of food a month to 41 non-profit agencies.

Bread Break delivers regularly to non-profits like St. Francis House, Bishop Dudley Hospitality House, Union Gospel Mission, Children’s Inn, Ronald McDonald House and the Volunteers of America, Dakotas – Veterans Services Center.

As a second harvest ministry, Bread Break provides meals for those in need while also reducing the amount of food that goes to waste in the community.

“It blows me away, the amount of food waste we have. That’s another piece that motivates me to share my time. There are hungry people that can really benefit from it,” Lori says.

From grocery stores and restaurants to cafeterias in hospitals and schools, most places that provide a food service regularly end up with excess product. Even at farmer’s markets, many vendors will donate fresh produce they haven’t sold by the end of the day.

“I’ll get anywhere from 500 to 1,000 pounds of fresh produce – zucchini, corn, tomatoes, peppers, you name it,” Lori explains. “Most of the vendors pick it for the market, and they want to get it used while it’s still fresh. So rather than throw it away, they donate it to us.”

For non-profit groups serving the homeless or the disabled, getting fresh garden produce helps boost the nutritional value of meals and stretch the budget of the organization.

“I feel like what we do really makes a positive impact, and that energizes me through the whole week,” Lori says. “I almost feel selfish sometimes because it’s such a great feeling to be able to use my time and talents to help others.”

The opportunity to connect with different organizations and people through Bread Break is another reason why she loves volunteering her time.

“During a drop-off, I’ll take one trip in and then I’ll have half a dozen guests from St. Francis following me out the door to carry the rest,” she says.

And other times, Lori will deliver pastries and bagels before breakfast starts, seeing guests through the windows that will soon be nourished, in part, by a second harvest. “When you look at the hundreds of thousands of pounds that would’ve gone in the trash but instead are getting put to good use, it’s a reminder that it doesn’t take massive amounts of giving to make a difference,” Lori says. “It just takes lots of people doing little bits together.”