Food Rescue- A Way To Address Hunger

Trendy ugly organic vegetables. Assortment of fresh eggplant, onion, carrot, zucchini, potatoes, pumpkin, pepper in craft paper bag over green background. Top view. Cooking ugly food concept. Non gmo vegetables.
Trendy ugly organic vegetables. Assortment of fresh eggplant, onion, carrot, zucchini, potatoes, pumpkin, pepper in craft paper bag over green background. Top view. Cooking ugly food concept. Non gmo vegetables.

We all have seen the cost of food going up. The USDA reported on its website that in 2022 food-at-home prices increased by 11.4 percent.  Egg prices jumped 49% in the last year.  The cost of tomatoes went up 23%.

In recent years, food rescue or recovery has emerged as one of the faster-growing ways to help with hunger. Food rescue is to gather edible food that would otherwise go to waste from places such as farms, produce markets, grocery stores, restaurants, or dining facilities and distribute it to local emergency food programs. The recovered food is edible, but often not sellable.

Here is an example of how it works in Magna, Utah. I go to the website for my local food rescue. There is a list of volunteer opportunities by date and time. I reserve a date and time based on my availability and click that I will go and fulfill the assignment. Then, instructions are sent to me by email about the times, locations, pickup and drop-off places, and the contacts at each location. If there is a specific time each week or each month that I have available, I can ‘adopt’ an assignment which means I will agree to go each time it is needed at the necessary regular intervals.

Pickup and drop-off locations vary. Pick-up locations or food donors often include grocery stores, hospital cafeterias, restaurants, bakeries, and wholesale fruit and produce vendors. Drop-off locations may comprise homeless shelters, senior centers, domestic violence shelters, and afterschool programs.

The Food and Drug Administration reports that 30-40% of food in the U.S. is wasted. Food rescue provides a significant opportunity to get food to where it is most needed without the need to produce more food.

Reducing food waste as part of food rescue can begin at home. Here are some ideas to get started:

  • Take stock of your pantry, refrigerator, and freezer before going to the store.
  • Create a meal plan so you buy most things according to a plan.
  • Save and eat leftovers safely. Store food appropriately. For example, tomatoes and bananas can be stored on the counter, and potatoes and onions in a cool, dark place.
  • Compost your gardens.
  • Buy “ugly foods” or as the British call them “wonky foods” which refers to misshaped or oddly shaped fruits or vegetables. There are companies that deliver these foods by monthly subscription or you can develop a relationship through a community-supported agriculture or farmers market to find some imperfect produce.

There are various ways to rescue food that would otherwise go to a landfill. Food rescue reduces the amount of food that is generated and potentially wasted. It helps organizations donate both non-perishable and unspoiled perishable food at the end of its shelf life to organizations that redistribute food.

Food rescue moves food to where it can be used. It goes to farms where many animals can eat food scraps. It goes to plants where bacteria can break down food waste converting it into methane biogas that can be used to generate electricity. It goes to community gardens for composting which has many benefits over general waste landfills, including reduced methane gas production and improved quality of the soil.

Organizations that rescue food participate in many different activities. In addition to food rescue, they often garden share, provide prepared meals from rescued food, education, and provide tips on how to reduce food waste. Volunteers like myself are often involved in transporting, preparing, or serving food.

As a father and full-time counselor, I sometimes wonder if I have any time to help. Food rescue is adaptable to the time I have. If I have an hour, I can help them at a community event educating others about the potential benefits of food rescue. If I have 20 minutes, I can complete a pick-up/drop-off assignment. If I have 2 minutes, I can donate to their organization online.

I participate in Food rescue because it is an expression of prudence. It just makes good sense to rescue food that has already been harvested. I food rescue out of gratitude. Last, but not least, it feels good to do good.

Where Can I Learn More About Food Rescue?

 You can find out more online by going to the following resources.


Here are some books on the topic that you might find helpful.

The Use-It-Up Cookbook: A Guide for Minimizing Food Waste, Lois Carlson Willand

An Almost Zero Waste Life: Learning How to Embrace Less to Live More, Megean Weldon





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