Tag Archives: Food Rescue US

Food Rescue: Simple Solution To A Tough Problem

The problem is staggering: Up to 40% of food in the United States is never eaten. At the same time, 1 in 8 Americans struggles to put food on the table.

The solution is staggeringly simple: Food Rescue US uses volunteer drivers to move fresh, usable food that would have been thrown away by restaurants, grocers and other food industry sources, to shelters, kitchens and pantries in Norwalk, Bridgeport and Stamford.

An app enables restaurants and retailers with extra food to request a pick up. Volunteers in the area are immediately pinged.

Food Rescue US is a national organization with a strong Westport presence. Over the past few years, more than 350 Westporters have helped.

Christy Colasurdo is one. At Trader Joe’s she loads fresh salads, breads,  sandwiches, milk, eggs, vegetables and fruits, then delivers it all to the Person to Person pantry in Norwalk.

On her first run, she filled her entire SUV. She was hooked.

Q104.3 disc jockey (and Westport resident, and super volunteer) Ian O’Malley (right) on a recent food run to the Gillespie Center.

The local Food Rescue group is run by dynamic Westporter Nicole Straight. She has 2 missions: match excess food with those who need it, and let everyone know how easy it is to help.

So on Monday, September 17 (6 p.m.), Wakeman Town Farm hosts a discussion about food waste in general, and Food Rescue specifically.

Panelists include Straight, chef Jes Bengtson of Terrain, and chef Jeff Taibe of Taproot restaurant. Sustainable food advocate Annaliese Paik will moderate.

The event includes local food donors from farms, restaurants and grocery stores. Light refreshments will be served.

Tickets are $25; $15 for Food Rescue volunteers. (Click here to purchase.) Proceeds benefit Food Rescue US.

Here’s an unexpected dessert: Each ticket is good for free entry to the October 21 screening of Anthony Bourdain’s documentary “Wasted!” (October 21, Town Hall, 6 p.m.).

That should be enough to convince you to volunteer for Food Rescue US — or at least go to the WTF panel.

If not, consider this recent note, received by local Food Rescue organizers:

I just want to say thanks, and tell you what the food donations mean to me. I get $192 a month in food stamps. It’s hard to stretch that amount over an entire month.

Getting food from Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s means a whole lot. This past Saturday we got a lot of good stuff (a lot of it vegan). One of my faves was the spicy falafel.

I look forward to the Saturday deliveries because there’s going to be something different each time. There’s always something I can use. Thank you!

(CT Bites is also a huge supporter of Food Rescue US. On September 29, they’re sponsoring a special “Kitchen Crawl,” featuring 4 local chefs in 4 designer homes, with cooking demos, great food, wine and beer. All proceeds benefit Food Rescue. Click here for details and tickets.)

Person to Person in Norwalk appreciates Trader Joe’s — and Food Rescue US’ — generous efforts.

Unsung Hero #42

Across Fairfield County, Food Rescue US volunteers are gearing up for April 25. That’s when the non-profit — which delivers extra food from restaurants, grocers, bakeries and caterers to soup kitchens, food pantries and other hunger relief organizations — throws its annual fundraiser. “Food For All” features amazing food and fun from over a dozen great restaurants, including Amis, Kawa Ni and Match Burger Lobster.

One of the volunteers working hardest on the event is Nicole Straight. But that’s no surprise. In the 4 years she’s been involved with Food Rescue US (formerly known as Community Plates), she’s saved untold tons of food.

And helped feed countless county residents.

A private chef, cookbook author and creator of Time to Eat! — a longtime cooking class for busy parents — Nicole is passionate about her volunteer work.

“In a community as fortunate as ours, it’s easy to oversee the invisible and sometimes uncomfortable hungry in our towns,” she told fellow food rescuer Ria Rueda.

“They are in Westport, Fairfield, Norwalk, New Canaan, Darien, Greenwich and Bridgeport. In the current culture, many people feel overwhelming powerlessness, a what-can-I-do feeling?”

Nicole Straight, rescuing food.

For Nicole, service means “boots on the ground” small acts. She loves helping her immediate community, easily and in under an hour.

Food rescue can be done alone, or with family or friends. An app allows anyone to find out when a food run is needed, 7 days a week.

“I love this job because it humanizes and connects me to people in our community I might never have met,” Nicole says.

Since becoming site director in 2016, Nicole has increased the volunteer base from 300 to 500.

But food rescue is not all she does.

Nicole volunteers weekly at the Cesar Batalla School in Bridgeport.

Nicole Straight, with students at Cesar Batalla School.

And she teaches poker at Westport’s Senior Center.

Which is just one more reason we are proud to “hand” this week’s Unsung Hero award to the very aptly named Nicole Straight.

(For more information on the “Food for All” fundraiser, and tickets, click here. For more information on Food Rescue US, click here. To nominate an Unsung Hero, email dwoog@optonline.net)

Take A Bite Out Of Hunger

As Westport heads toward the holidays, many of us will dine well.

We’ll enjoy meals at fine restaurants, with friends, family and colleagues. It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

But it’s not such a great time for our neighbors who are hungry. So, as we eat and drink, we should also look for this logo:

“Hunger Bites” is a month-long campaign to end local hunger. Co-sponsored by Food Rescue US — a national organization (with a strong Westport presence) that moves fresh, usable food that would have been thrown away by restaurants and grocery stores to families that desperately need it — and the CTBites website, the month-long drive is a way to make a donation on your restaurant bill. It goes directly to folks in need.

With the cost of delivery just 5 cents a meal, adding just $1 to your check provides 20 meals.

National board member (and Westporter) Simon Hallgarten notes that this is far below the norm for most food non-profits. Food Rescue US is so efficient because there is no cost of storage or delivery. They crowdsource their volunteers, so there is no direct cost for pickup or delivery.

Participating restaurants in Westport include The Cottage, Jesup Hall, Kawa Ni, Match Burger Lobster, Tarry Lodge, The Whelk and Winfield Coffee & Deli.

We’ve got a lot of choices for great dining over the next few weeks. Those places should be on everyone’s list.

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.)