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Meal movers: Fairfield County relocation companies go the extra mile for food banks

The connection between moving companies and food banks may not seem a natural fit to some, but for three county-based movers it is just that.

“We thought it was a great idea,” said Kevin Kaster, sole owner and president of Stamford’s Kaster Moving Co. Established in 1977, the company since 1995 has been an agent of Atlas Van Lines, which first brought the Asbury Park, New Jersey–based nonprofit Move For Hunger to Kaster’s attention.

“Their whole concept is that people usually end up throwing food away when they move,” Kaster explained. “Maybe not if they’re staying in the same town, but if they’re moving across the state or the country or internationally, when you legally cannot take your food with you.”

Under the Move For Hunger partnership, crews from relocation companies like Kaster, Shepard’s Moving and Storage of Bethel, and Crown World Mobility of Danbury pack up unopened, nonperishable food items and transport them to local food banks — primarily the Food Bank of Lower Fairfield County in Stamford, but also the Dorothy Day Hospitality House in Danbury and Filling in the Blanks in New Canaan — where the donations are sorted and delivered to families.

“The problem is huge,” Kaster said. “People think that Fairfield County is fairly affluent, but a surprising number of children are considered ‘hunger-challenged.’ It’s kind of crazy in a county like this and country — wide, it’s a pretty sobering thought.”

According to the Food Bank of Lower Fairfield County, 1 out of every 5 children in the state is hungry or at risk of hunger, and the need for emergency food in the county has doubled in volume over the past five years.

To date, Kaster has donated 2,250 pounds of food to the county food bank and the Connecticut Food Bank in East Haven, which the company estimates has been enough to provide nearly 2,000 meals.

“The guys on our crews get into it as well,” Kaster said. “It’s good for the company as a whole.”

His involvement with the Boy Scouts and “the way I was brought up” had led him to see the value in giving back to the community, Kaster said. Starting his business with “an old orange pickup truck” 40 years ago, he has built a fleet of 26 moving vans and trucks operating throughout the county and the tristate area.

At Crown World Mobility, headquartered in Los Angeles, Sheryl Cherry, regional marketing manager for the Americas, said that beginning in 2010 and running through 2016, the company collected almost 402,000 pounds of food in North America, 118,000 pounds of which were collected last year.

“And that’s not the only charity that our Danbury operation works with,” Cherry noted. “At Christmas time they do an ‘adopt a family’ outreach, where our employees get gifts for all the members of a particular family. They rake leaves for the elderly and clear roofs during snowstorms.”

“We are a family-owned company that believes in giving back to the community,” said MaryKate Storm, executive vice president at Shepard’s, which is an agent for Mayflower Transit. “For over 20 years, the employees of Shepard’s have helped collect and donate consumable goods as well as their time to help feed the less fortunate in the area.”

In addition to Move For Hunger, Shepard’s launched its “Think Spring – Food for Hunger Campaign” on April 1. Running through May 31, the campaign involves the company’s customer service and crews collecting nonperishable food items from its shippers’ homes, as well as accepting food collections from the community and employees through branded collection boxes.

“The hope is to help collect enough food — at least 1,000 pounds — to help fill the shelves at local food pantries, which typically run very low on food supplies this time of year,” Storm said.

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