The First Coast has a wide network of food banks, food pantries, and soup kitchens. You have probably donated to some of them, volunteered at others, gone to a gala to raise money for some of the biggest. And yet 1 in 5 of us don’t know where our next meal is coming from. People who need food are not just the homeless population. They look like me and you, and they often have jobs that don’t quite make ends meet.
Waste Not Want Not is a local non-profit that is working a different angle to overcome food insecurity. Waste Not Want Not director Sandra Staudt-Killea believes there is enough food to feed everyone. She believes this because one quarter of all food in this country is thrown away, unsold, every year. It’s Waste Not’s mission to rescue would-be wasted food and deliver it to local non-profits serving the needy in our community.
Where does one rescue food from being wasted? I’m glad you asked. Waste Not Want Not works with grocery stores, restaurants, farms, and vendors. They rescue food from some of the obvious places like stores that are moving things off the shelves as they approach their sell by date, or farmers fields that need gleaning after the mechanical harvesters, and even neighbors trees that are overflowing with fruit. Some of the less obvious places include the food available after holidays, such as themed cakes and cookies that will not longer sell. When running races get rained out there are oranges, bananas, bagels, and the like to rescue. Even after fishing tournaments Waste Not Want Not volunteers go and fillet the fish and provide that to local missions as well. There is food everywhere, it’s just a matter of getting it to the people who need it.
If that sounds like a logistical conundrum, that’s because it is. Waste Not Want Not operates with two paid employees and over 250 volunteers who spend over 500 hours a week rescuing food. Last year those couple hundred volunteers rescued 2.3 million pounds of food, which helped feed 15,000 people every week. To put that in perspective, if Waste Not wasn’t in the business of rescuing food, 15,000 fewer people on the First Coast would have food to eat.
What’s next for Waste Not Want Not? In short, to keep growing! “We would particularly love to increase the amount of produce and high protein foods that we rescue, as these are healthier and more necessary foods for those in need”, according to Sandra. More volunteers and more stores and restaurants with food to rescue will provide even more of our neighbors with food to eat. Waste Not is also partnering with local restaurants and chefs looking to create benefit dinners with proceeds going to Waste Not. Chef Rosaria has put together an incredible one night only event with ten local chefs creating a spectacular meal as a benefit for Waste Not. Chef Rosaria’s Earth Day Farm Fresh Feast is April 22 in the beautiful event space at Atlantic Beach Urban Farms. If you want to be a part of what Waste Not Want Not is doing, this is a great opportunity. Another local restaurant is creating a benefit dinner called Chefs to the Rescue where all the food served has been rescued. You can find out more about Chefs to the Rescue with Rue Saint-Marc here. If you want to get involved with Waste Not, you can donate money, food, or your time to the organization. Everything you need to know is on their website.