Community-Based Food Rescue Programs Providing a Solution to Hunger and Food Waste

From by Clare Algozin
Community-Based Food Rescue Programs Providing a Solution to Hunger and Food Waste

With nearly 40 percent of all edible food in the US is wasted, and 50 million Americans going hungry, Table to Table works by rescuing this fresh, nutritious food that would otherwise be discarded. The community-based food rescue program provides an effective and efficient solution to hunger, while addressing the serious and growing problem of food waste in the environment.

Food Tank had the opportunity to speak with Ilene Isaacs, Executive Director at Table To Table.

Food Tank (FT): How do you contribute to creating a better food system?

Ilene Isaacs (II): The fresh food that we deliver, free of charge, provides a nutritious supplement for a segment of the population that most typically does not have access to fresh, wholesome food.  And it is just this type of food that is the most important for healthy development, growth and the ability to be productive.  

FT: What is a project, program, or result you are most proud of?

II: Community food rescue is the core of our program.  Since our inception in 1999, we’ve been singularly focused on redistributing as much excess healthy, fresh and prepared food as possible in the four counties we serve.  Each year we set an increased goal and every year we have met or exceeded that goal.  In our 15 1/2 years we’ve saved more than 27,000 tons of food from going to waste, provided over 81 million nutritious meals and helped feed hundreds of thousands of NJ families.

We pick up fresh food from more than 200 donors (restaurants, supermarkets, food distributors and caterers), and we currently deliver it to 80 community partners. These partners include soup kitchens, homeless shelters, elder care facilities, day care centers, homes for victims and children of domestic violence, after school programs and pantries serving the "working poor."  With savings to their food budgets these recipient agencies can provide more of the programs inherent to their missions, creating a longer-term impact.

FT: What are your goals for 2015 and beyond?

II: In 2015 we will redistribute food to provide 15 million meals to our neighbors in need.  Additionally, in partnership with a community center in Newark, we have begun a free, mobile fresh produce market along with an abundance of seasonal fresh produce that would otherwise not be available or affordable, the 250 participating families will receive recipes, cooking suggestions and general information on ways to incorporate healthy eating into their lifestyle.  

Through this market an additional ten thousand pounds of produce are being distributed in one of the poorest areas of the region each week.  While our impact on the community grows, we will continue to operate as one of the most efficient nonprofits in the state, redistributing food at the cost to our organization of 10 cents/meal.  We will retain our 4-star ranking from Charity Navigator and maintain our policy of raising all of our own funds, without the assistance of any government funding.

FT: In one sentence, what is the most important thing eaters and consumers can do today to support a more sustainable food system?

II: Eat more fresh food and purchase and order only what you and your family will consume.

FT: How can individuals become more involved in your organization?

II: Visit our website to see the many ways to become involved.  We are always on the lookout for new food donors in our region and do all that we can to make the donation process seamless and beneficial for the donor.  We have a standing volunteer committee that works to raise the funds necessary to keep our trucks on the road, and we keep costs low by utilizing pro-bono services.  We have a major fall initiative, “Bag a Lunch, Help a Bunch,” in which schools, business and individuals in the region join together for a gratifying, fun and hugely successful campaign to help feed our neighbors in need.  And in the spring, we have extraordinary food and wine events that help raise a major portion of our operating expenses.   We can help anyone with a passion for feeding people and a desire to serve find a way to become involved.

Download the 2015 Good Food Org Guide HERE.

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