Walking through your local grocery store at the end of the day, have you ever wondered what they do with all the food that didn’t sell? The sad truth is that most of it will be discarded. Americans throw away 37 million tons of food each year, nearly 1/3 of what is produced.
That is the kind of needless waste that Seattle Food Rescue (SFR) aims to prevent.
A completely volunteer-run organization, Seattle Food Rescue partners with local grocery stores to get those perfectly good, about-to-expire sandwiches, salads and produce into the hands of hungry, homeless and low-income Seattle residents. The best part? They do it all on bikes, reducing the environmental footprint of transporting the goods.
Until recently, SFR used a “hub and spoke” model, delivering to community organizations like food banks who would then distribute the food to individuals. But a new partnership with Capitol Hill Housing (CHH) has afforded an opportunity to pilot a direct distribution system. Approximately twice a week, SFR volunteers haul a load of packaged perishable food and fresh produce on their bikes straight to the front door of three CHH buildings with particularly low-income residents.
SFR founder Tim Jenkins explained that the benefits of this model are numerous:
“In addition to building a sense of community, there are logistical benefits,” he shared.
Whereas at a food bank, goods near the end of their shelf life may sit for an additional day or two, direct delivery ensures that the food gets consumed immediately. Furthermore, donors enjoy the idea that they are supporting their own neighborhoods, and since the food is from nearby, the options are more likely to be culturally appropriate for the recipients. As Jenkins put it, “We wanted to make [our service] a little more personal and keep it even more local than at the zip code level.”
CHH and its residents are thrilled. Elliot Swanson, CHH Resident Services Manager, noted that low-income residents often eat highly processed foods, since they usually provide more caloric “bang for your buck”—an important consideration for poor families,
who on average already spend almost a third of their income on food. The fresh foods delivered by SFR fill a nutritional gap left by other hunger relief organizations that rely on shelf-stable but more processed foods.
Based on the overwhelmingly positive feedback from residents, both Jenkins and Swanson would like to see this pilot program expand to more CHH buildings. Eventually Swanson would
even like to coordinate cooking classes for residents, helping them to make the best use of the fresh produce.
Reducing waste, getting resources to people in need, using sustainable transportation, and building community—Seattle Food Rescue offers a surprisingly simple solution to some of this city’s most pressing priorities.
If you’d like to get involved with the Seattle Food Rescue, email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.