We had the good fortune of connecting with Danae Gutierrez Martinez and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Danae, how does your business help the community?
The Harvest Project Food Rescue(HP) focuses on reducing food waste by partnering up with produce warehouses and distributing surplus produce to communities. Our partner communities are located in food deserts which means their access to healthy food is extremely limited to non-existent. With the current economic crisis the number of our program participants has more that tripled. Our partnerships are build on a ‘By Us for Us’ mentality, which means our partner communities are the ones leading and running their distributions sites. HP’s job is to support our partners not to ‘save’ them. The goal of HP was never to be the be-all-end-all as a distributor, but for the communities to learn how to form and maintain those foundations themselves, and we have definitely seen that happen. We have partners who have been running their site for over 5 years with zero funding and 100% community volunteers.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
As a immigrant to this country I have experienced both what this amazing country has to offer, but also the struggles of an undocumented immigrant. From experiencing food insecurity to now having the opportunity to feed thousands of people weekly. When I got to this country I experienced what the lack of resources meant in regards to my education which then determined the path I took when my son became of school age. I was able to see what the children in my community and communities like mine were experiencing with the lack of resources they were given. I became a very active parent through the PTA, SBDM (Site-based decision making), and different committees within Dallas ISD. My advocacy for my son and the other students in his school led me to start my journey providing relief for those struggling with food insecurity. One of the keys to my success as director of the Harvest Project is that I’ve been able to see the struggles of our families through the lens of solidarity and understanding. As a brown woman who is Indigenous, Queer, DACAmented and a single parent, I am not doing handouts for these families, but giving back in the way my community provided for me. The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that we cannot depend on outside entities like the government, our “the current leadership,” or organizations that don’t have a connection to our communities to have our back. We have to do the work ourselves and provide for the community ourselves, for only WE know what we need. We are our own saviors. As Executive Director of the Harvest Project, my message to the World would be that if we nourish our communities and care for each other, we can spread that nourishment and love through decolonizing our diets and thus our lives which will heal our planet and spirit.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
If my best friend were coming to visit me here in Dallas they would already know that they are in for some good sweat-therapy. We would start our week with a trip to the future Harvest Project Farm to do some good ol’ composting. On Tuesday we would take a trip to West Dallas for cardboard recycling to earn some gas money for the Harvest Project. Wednesdays, I’ll wake them up with a steaming cup of coffee and a concha at 5:45 am to help them get ready to embark on our produce pick up journey starting at 4DWN to pick up ‘Big D’. After picking up Big D(our refrigerated truck) we would make our way to pick up our three loads of produce donations. For Lunch we would meet up with Chef Diana Zamora of Project La Familia for some super yummy vegan dishes. After lunch we would head to FARM( Farmers Assisting Returning Military) to start making the produce baskets for the Wednesdays at FARM Produce Distribution. For dinner is Chef Diana to the rescue!! Chef will prepare a vegan friendly meal with the rescue produce(Yum! Yum!) On Thursday my friend will get to spend time with Anthony Lazon from Dallas For Change who will introduce them to some amazing people like Lucero, Akwete, and Khadijeh. After that is dinner at my house. Friday, I will be taking them to brunch at I Love Pho on Forrest then head to Beacon of Light to spend sometime with Sister Khadijeh and Tim. For dinner we would go to El Atoron in East Dallas where they have some super yummy quesadillas. Saturday we would wake up with the sun to get ready for the produce distribution. Breakfast and lunch will be cooked by LatinX Dallas yum yum Brazilian and Mexican vegan food 🙂 Pretty sure my friend would realize they shouldn’t had travel during COVID 😉

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I would like to dedicate this shout out to three incredible women, Sister Khadijeh Abdullah, Hermana Lucero Flores, and Sister Akwete Tyehimbo. Each of these women have been an inspiration to me on my journey as a founder of the Harvest Project. Not only are they pillars in their communities, but without their example I wouldn’t be where I am today. Their communities can count on their persistence and courage to serve with Love and dedication. I am beyond grateful to call them mentors and family. Thank you for all that you have done for the Harvest Project and myself, I Love you.

Website: www.harvestprojectfoodrescue.org
Instagram: theharvest.project
Facebook: Harvest Project Food Rescue

Image Credits
Rebecca King, Danae Gutierrez Martinez

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