Tag Archives: Community Plates

Food Rescue US Sinks Deep Westport Roots

If you’re like me, you’ve probably given little — if any — thought to the enormous amount of food that restaurants and grocery stores throw away every day.

If you’re like Simon Hallgarten and Stephanie Webster though, you have.

The Westporters — he’s a founding partner of Northview Hotel Group, she’s editor-in-chief of CTbites — are national board members of Food Rescue US.

The organization — known until this past January as Community Plates — fills a simple, important, why-didn’t-I-think-of-that mission: moving fresh, usable food that would have been thrown away by restaurants, grocers and other food industry sources, to families that desperately need it.

The national Food Rescue US group has a strong local presence. Under Hallgarten and Webster’s leadership, Westport has become a big town for food donors — and as “food rescuers.”

Whole Foods cannot possibly sell all its food. It’s a leader in offering its unused goods to people in need.

Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods and Fresh Market are longtime donors. Many smaller stores and restaurants participate too.

Right now, 40 Westport volunteers transport food to shelters, kitchens and pantries in Norwalk, Bridgeport and Stamford. Over the past few years, more than 350 Westporters have helped.

Many bring their children on food rescue missions. “It’s an important lesson for our kids who otherwise are sheltered from the harsher side of life, and the struggles that many families go through every day,” Hallgarten — who started his career as a chef — says.

Ziggy Hallgarten — Simon’s son, an All-State soccer goalkeeper and current lacrosse player at Staples — and his younger brother Ollie are food rescuers.

Ollie Hallgarten, with a vehicle full of donated (“rescued”) food.

“It’s an easy way to give back to a large community at once,” Ziggy says. “With an hour’s worth of driving, you can change the lives of so many.”

On his first run with his dad 2 years ago, Ziggy was shocked to see some of his favorite foods — perfectly edible — about to be thrown away.

They filled the back of their station wagon, and drove “pounds and pounds of food” from a New Canaan grocery store to a Stamford homeless shelter.

“The locations of my deliveries changed during the couple of years I’ve been a food rescuer,” Ziggy says. “But the priceless smiles of the recipients when I’ve driven up with boxes of food never ceases to amaze me.”

He brought friends on runs too, showing them the feasibility — and ease — of saving otherwise wasted food.

Though Food Rescue US is a volunteer driven (ho ho) operation, there are of course administrative and other costs. So this year’s fundraiser — “Food for All 2017: An Evening to End Hunger” — is very important.

Set for next Wednesday (April 26, 6:30 p.m., The Loading Dock in Stamford), it features over 15 tasting plates from top Fairfield County chefs, along with beer, wine and craft cocktails. Every $1 donated helps cover 20 rescued meals.

Westport sponsors for Wednesday’s fundraiser include Whole Foods, Moffly Media, and the Elizabeth and Joseph Massoud Family Foundation. Fleishers Craft Kitchen and Whole Foods are among the participating food vendors.

“Hunger is an issue that can be fixed,” Simon Hallgarten says. “Food Rescue US’ goal of ending hunger in not a crazy pipe dream. It’s a reality — if we reach critical mass in the next decade.”

In Westport — thanks to so many restaurants, stores and volunteers — we’re almost there.

(For more information on the April 26 “Food for All” fundraiser, including tickets, click here.)

Community Plates Serves Us All

As we round the corner toward the holiday season — America’s favorite glutton-gorging time — we might spend a second or two thinking about others.

Just like Community Plates always does.

The little-known, non-profit organization helps people in 3 states (Connecticut, Ohio and New Mexico) donate time, money — and food itself — to lessen the impact of hunger.

Americans throw away between 25 and 40 percent of our food supply. CommunityPlates moves fresh food that would have otherwise be tossed from homes, restaurants, stores and farms, to places it can make a difference: shelters, soup kitchens, food banks and food pantries.

Siobhan Crise is a Community Plates “food runner.” Whenever she can, she clicks on her CP app. She sees which “runs” need doing locally.

Community Plates appShe might grab 6 crates of the previous day’s fruit and bread products from the Trader Joe’s loading bay, and take it to the Gillespie Center. Or head from Bartaco to Norwalk’s Person-to-Person.

Thanks to the app, donors know their food will be picked up. Receiving agencies know fresh food (including meat) is coming in.

“The people who run Community Plates, and the ones you meet — especially at the agencies — are wonderful. Talk about dedication!” Siobhan says.

“And the runners are a really fun and diverse bunch.”

Siobhan likes the convenience of creating her own schedule. If she misses a week — even a month — no one harasses her. “It’s like NPR,” she says. “You give what you can.” (She does admit, “Some Catholic guilt kicks in if I miss a couple of weeks in a row.”)

She likes volunteering in her “scruffiest gym/kickboxing clothes.”

And, Siobhan says, “I can do it with my kids. I won’t pretend it’s their favorite task ever. But it’s important to me that they understand that Westport is an extremely wealthy, and in many ways unusual, town. ”

Community Plates logoLike all of us, Siobhan is busy. She wishes she had more hours to dedicate to the community. But Community Plates offers “so much bang for my volunteering buck. There’s no talking, no planning, no meeting, no egos, no blah blah blah. Just doing.

Her favorite run is to the Thomas Merton House in Bridgeport. Watching people line up for their food allowance, Siobhan knows  the fresh food she brings will be on their dinner table that night.

“They eat better because I had a spare hour and some wheels,” she says. “Am I selfish to say this makes me feel good?”

No, Siobhan. Not selfish at all. Because volunteering for Community Plates makes everyone feel good.

And does good, too.