By Nate Clark
Original article posted at BioCycle
In communities across the country, food donation networks for grocery stores, food service industries, restaurants and individuals are creating opportunities to capture food items and donate them to food rescue and hunger organizations. Feeding America, the nation’s largest hunger-relief charity with a network of over 200 food banks, distributes over three billion pounds of food and grocery products to food-insecure Americans annually. The challenge for donation programs arises with foods that are highly perishable, and thus must be prepared and eaten quickly, leaving little time for transport, storage and other logistical steps in the food donation process. But with every challenge comes the opportunity for a creative solution, which is exactly what has happened in the state of Vermont.
The Vermont Foodbank, a supported affiliate of Feeding America, has been successful at aiding as many as 86,000 Vermont residents with food assistance through its programs and networks in the state. Like many similar organizations, the Vermont Foodbank encountered problems when it came to donations of meats, dairy, produce or any other food product with a fast-approaching expiration date. But instead of deciding to not accept these items, staff at the Vermont Foodbank had a different thought. “We had the idea of developing a community kitchen program to recapture food that would be wasted to make meals to feed hungry people,” explains Michelle Wallace, Vermont Foodbank’s Program Director of the Community Kitchen Academy. The program is designed to utilize donated food products that are highly perishable and would otherwise be wasted as learning tools for students enrolled in the culinary job training program to make meals distributed via food assistance programs.