By Kerri Qunell
We toss out brown bananas and last week’s pizza, and so do restaurants, grocery stores and cafeterias—all of it headed to the dump. According to a recent government study, 27 percent of all landfill content is food. That’s about a pound of wasted food every day for every American. And the number of hungry people who could use that wasted food continues to rise. Fortunately, a program through the Capital Area Food Bank (CAFB) addresses both of these issues with one smart solution: the Perishable Food Rescue Program.
Eighteen years ago, H-E-B helped CAFB establish standard operating procedures and food safety measures to launch the program. Today, thousands of pounds of wholesome, table-ready products like meats, dairy, bread, fresh produce and frozen meals, at or near their “sell-by” dates, are donated by H-E-B, Sam’s Club, Wal-Mart, Whole Foods and other stores in Austin, Waco, Temple, Bastrop, Lockhart and Kyle.
Now considered “rescued,” the food is redistributed to CAFB partner agencies across Central Texas to help nourish our hungry neighbors. The potential for rescued meat alone is 735,000 pounds yearly.
The Perishable Food Rescue Program provides a variety of fresh, nutritious and protein-rich foods well beyond what the traditional food pantry can—a key element as many clients who rely on emergency food assistance are susceptible to illness caused by malnutrition and poor diet. Jacqueline Freeman, 65, was evacuated to Austin after Hurricane Katrina and has since relied, every other week, on food from CAFB partner agency, Catholic Charities.
“I get beef and ham, and it goes so much further,” says Freeman. “There are times I just can’t buy food. It’s a struggle, so I have to be resourceful.”
Shirley Cessna, who is diabetic, says her body needs the fruits and vegetables she gets from Haynie Chapel Food Pantry, another CAFB partner agency.
“I can’t afford to buy these foods,” Cessna says. “But with the vegetables and meat I get here, I can make a big pot of soup, then freeze it and eat it later.”
Feeding America (formerly America’s Second Harvest), recognizes programs like the Perishable Food Rescue Program as the primary growth opportunity for food banks across the country, as well as a highly efficient way to make available a variety of quality foods once considered rare by folks like Freeman and Cessna.
“There’s lots of ways to do this without wasting food,” Cessna says about stretching her supply of food as far as possible. “If you know how to do it right.”