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Eliminating Food Waste Helps the Earth and the Hungry

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Welcome to SLCgreen Connections, an occasional series highlighting SLCgreen’s fantastic local partners—the people and organizations with whom we work closely to make Salt Lake City a greener, more vibrant, and sustainable city!

by Ardyn Ford, SLCgreen intern

It is the rideshare of philanthropy: simple, quick, and on your own time. Designed with the fast-paced nature of the modern world in mind, Food Rescue US makes it easy to make a significant difference without overbooking your calendar.

Currently, Americans waste 40 billion pounds of food every year. This translates to 40% of the food supply. On the other side of this waste stands 50 million food insecure Americans who are unsure where their next meal is coming from. If you do the math, you’ll discover that the food being wasted could feed 36 million people three meals a day. There is a clear disconnect here.

Food waste is also a large source of carbon pollution–that includes all the wasted energy it took to grow, transport, and package the food in the first place, as well as the direct emissions rotting food produces in landfills.

So this Earth Week, learn more about what this unique organization is doing about it– and how you can get involved!

Food Rescue US strives to bridge the divide between those who are hungry and the amount of food being wasted. It does this primarily through its app, which connects food distributors, volunteers, and non-profit organizations.

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Food distributors have traditionally tended to throw away any produce that is “ugly” or irregular looking and products that are close to their sell-by date but still perfectly good to eat. The creators of Food Rescue US, which is a national non-profit, recognized how easily this food could be diverted to feed those in need. This led to the development of the Food Rescue app, which allows distributors to log and convene food that would normally be thrown out.

Volunteers, dubbed Food Rescuers, create a profile for themselves with their schedule and location, and the app uses an algorithm that connects them with the nearest food donor. When they have some free time, they pick up the food and drop it off at a participating non-profit organization. This is something that can be accomplished easily in the span of a lunch-break.

“The beauty of this tool is its simplicity,” Dana Williamson, the founder of the Salt Lake chapter of Food Rescue US, said. “This problem is solvable.”

After working at American Express for 20 years, Dana decided that it was time to refocus her life on the things that she is truly passionate about. These passions include food, education, and helping others. After doing some research, she discovered Food Rescue US. It aligned perfectly with the direction that she wanted to move forward in. So, she reached out to the non-profit and asked about starting a program in Salt Lake. They were eager to expand, and Dana got Food Rescue up and running in Salt Lake in December of 2017.

Since then, the program has grown to include four food donors, four receiving agencies, and ten food rescuers.

Because it is in its early stages, Dana is excited to get in contact with anyone in the food industry, however, she has focused her efforts on bigger companies and groups like grocery stores and cafeterias.

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One of the largest challenges that Dana has run into is that potential food donors often already donate to the Food Bank and feel too busy to incorporate Food Rescue into their model. While the Food Bank certainly plays an important role in increasing food access, Food Rescue US fills a niche that the Food Bank does not by accepting prepared food and products with broken packaging.

It is important to stress the fact that after a donor has created a profile in the Food Rescue app, it is just as easy to donate their unused food as it is to throw it away. All they have to do is put it in a place where a rescuer can pick it up and they never have to think about it again.

One of the main donors for Food Rescue US in Utah has been Muir Copper Canyon Farms, which is an e2 Business – a City program that recognizes businesses that have shown devotion to sustainability. Not only does Muir divert food waste to Food Rescue US, their facility also utilizes LED lighting, variable speed fans, and electric vehicles.

Similarly, since the launching of Food Rescue US in Salt Lake, Dana has become a member of the sub-committee of the SLCgreen’s Food Policy Task Force, which is a coalition of individuals devoted to reducing food waste and increasing access to healthy foods for Salt Lake residents through policy work, research, and community programming.

This partnership demonstrates the interconnectedness of non-profits, businesses, and local government and the power that strong communities have to inspire sustainable progress.

Food Rescue US is a fantastic opportunity to get involved with an organization that promotes sustainable practices and the well-being of the community. Not only is it straightforward, but it is also highly effective.

If you are interested, check out their website at www.foodrescue.us and download the Food Rescue app!

And click here for tips on how to reduce food waste in your home.

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