Most people are familiar with food drives and food banks. After all, canned food is the iconic symbol of food donations.
But, what about all of those perishable foods that have a limited shelf life? What happens to the milk at grocery stores that’s getting too close to the sell-by date? What about the already prepared foods at restaurants that don’t sell each day? What happens when an event is cancelled at the last minute, but all of the foods have been readied for it?
Waste Not specializes in “capturing” these fresh foods and delivering them the same day to people who are hungry for them.
Working with 60 diverse partner agencies that include schools, after-school programs, area food banks, rehabilitation centers, senior centers, daycare centers and transitional housing, Waste Not delivers fresh, nutritional food that otherwise would have gone to waste.
In a typical year, that translates into 3 million pounds of food reaching the hungry instead of the local landfill.
The COVID pandemic has impacted Waste Not and the people it serves – but not necessarily in the ways you might imagine.
Our ability to respond quickly to find homes for available food became more vital than ever as businesses -- from restaurants to airlines to spring training facilities -- suddenly found themselves stocked with food for clients that were no longer coming to their sites.
The amount of food Waste Not captured and delivered in just the month of March alone rose 70 percent due to last-minute event cancellations.
American Airlines, for example, turned to Waste Not to find a home for 19 pallets of buttered croissants!
Because we are not warehousing food, Waste Not doesn’t need donations to be perfectly packaged and palleted.
We can handle everything from a few dozen Sprinkles cupcakes to a truckload of melons to thousands of croissants.
On Sept. 1, the first day of Hunger Action Month, Waste Not began a new partnership with 213 area Starbucks locations to capture fresh, unsold foods like salads, sandwiches and baked goods.
We’re partnering with St. Vincent de Paul to use this food to serve people in need, including the 250 people per day seeking heat relief at the Phoenix Convention Center.
Food donations exceeding St. Vincent de Paul’s needs will reach the hungry through some of our other partners. We’re anticipating as much as 500,000 pounds of food will be saved through this partnership alone, one of Waste Not’s largest yet.
COVID is going to impact our economy for the foreseeable future, which means more people than normal are going to continue to experience job insecurity and the budget struggles that accompany it.
Hunger Action Month takes place each September, but this year it takes on an added urgency. It is a time when people all over America join with the Feeding America nationwide network of food banks to fight hunger by spreading the word about hunger in local communities, volunteering, advocating, donating and helping raise awareness about hunger.
You can support the work of Waste Not by donating at WasteNotaz.org. ′
Kate Thoene is the executive director of Waste Not.