In the Community: Supporting Neighbors with a Passion for Nutrition and Health

December 2020
Topics: Community Impact, Public Health
Danielle Debroux loves to cook “super tasty,” nutritious dishes. She also volunteers at a Northern Virginia regenerative farm. Debroux recently combined both passions to help bring nutrient-packed meals to neighbors facing food insecurity.
A "selfie" of Danielle Debroux standing in front of a bush

Danielle Debroux with some of the harvest from Gathering Springs Farm. (Photo courtesy of Danielle Debroux.)

MITRE employees take our mission of solving problems for a safer world to heart—and to their communities. Our "In the Community" series highlights the many ways our people make a difference in neighborhoods across the country and around the globe.

Select stories feature employees lending their time, talent, and heart to the fight against COVID-19. MITRE’s Danielle Debroux uses her passion for community and cooking to provide families in need with nutritious, locally grown foods.

In 2018, I met two women at a farmer’s market who were intent on starting their own regenerative farm in Loudoun County, Virginia, and were inspired to transform local farmland. Regenerative farming includes farming and grazing practices that help reverse climate change by rebuilding organic soil matter and restoring degraded soil biodiversity.

Recently, I’ve been using my civic time [MITRE’s employee benefit of paid time for volunteering] to help support their farm, Gathering Springs Farm, and have had the most incredible experience watching two farmers turn unused grassland into a prosperous farm. They also provide Community Supported Agriculture where consumers buy a share of the farm's harvest and in return receive a variety of freshly picked, nutrient-dense, local produce.

A Farm-to-Table Network

This spring, the farm produced an overabundance of beautiful produce. I started thinking about what could be done with it, so I called my local shelter—the Embry Rucker Community Shelter in Reston, Virginia. They said they’ve lost more than 50 percent of their volunteers due to COVID, and donations are down by 70 percent. I have a passion for cooking nutritious, yet super tasty food, and offered to make meals with the unused produce from the farm.

The shelter makes lunch and dinner for 70 people each day and breakfast for 50, so I volunteered to make dinner. With the abundance of vegetables from the farm and purchasing local organic grains, cheese, and beans, I was able to shape a locally sourced meal.

I prepared the meals at The Difference Baker, a gluten-free kitchen in Ashburn, Virginia, and worked with two women from Legacy Farms who helped prepare the first meal. Legacy Farms offers apprenticeship-style learning and job opportunities in a neurodiverse community of individuals preparing for college, learning a trade, or seeking internships.

The farm hires mentors to help children who are on the autism spectrum learn job skills like gardening and farm inventory. The Difference Baker also made and donated 100 cookies for the shelter. We offered to make meals every other month since our first delivery in August and are planning our October meal now!

Sustaining Community Health

This has been the most humbling experience and a glimpse into a stark disparity. I couldn’t help but think about the food most shelters receive, which are mostly nonperishable, packaged, nutrient-deficient meals.

To support and sustain somebody else's health who doesn't have access to local or organic produce and food was the biggest driver for me. I believe everyone should have equal access to the healthiest, most nutritious foods.

Finding Inspiration Through a Legacy of Service

Supporting people's health and immune systems is important for the entire community, especially during this time. The foods people eat can directly impact their immunity and how they might respond to the virus. If you're not receiving proper nutrition, how do you get through this and stay healthy?

I heard something that spoke to my heart during the memorial service for John Lewis, and I hope it speaks to yours and inspires you to serve or spread joy in your own personal way.

"That’s where real courage comes from. Not from turning on each other, but by turning towards one another. Not by sowing hatred and division, but by spreading love and truth. Not by avoiding our responsibilities to create a better America and a better world, but by embracing those responsibilities with joy, perseverance and discovering that in our beloved communities, we do not walk alone."

by Danielle C. Debroux, as told to Aishia Caryn Freeman

Corporate social responsibility has long been a key element of our culture. We're committed to leading the way to a strong future through community involvement and volunteerism, locally and nationally. We offer 40 hours of paid time to employees to volunteer during the workday for causes they care about. Learn more about MITRE’s Corporate Social Responsibility efforts and commitment and about working with us

Explore More at MITRE Focal Point: Community Impact


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