Tag Archives: Nicole Straight

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)

To Cesar Batalla School, With Love

If you’re like me, you spend time sitting in Riverside Avenue traffic wondering what goes on behind those mysterious windows above Arezzo restaurant.

bonnie-marcus-logoTurns out it’s a design studio, home to the Bonnie Marcus Collection. Launched by Diane von Furstenberg’s former right-hand woman, it’s where 10 very talented people — all local moms — create illustrations for bridal shower, wedding and party invitations; greeting cards; calendars and more.

Bonnie has developed licensing deals with some of the biggest companies in the world. Her designs are found in more than 50,000 retail and online stores.

But today her studio concentrates on one school, in nearby  Bridgeport.

Bonnie’s cards often feature hand-painted sparkles. So Westporter Nicole Straight — who volunteers at the Cesar Batalla School, and is a big fan of Bonnie Marcus Collections — came up with an idea: Give every student there a chance to make a sparkling Valentine’s Day card for someone special.

Westport middle school student Sydney Gusick helped package goodies at the Bonnie Marcus design studio.

Westport middle school student Sydney Gusick helped package goodies at the Bonnie Marcus design studio.

It could be a parent, sibling, teacher or friend. The key is for kids to have fun making their own cards.

Today, Nicole is delivered 1,200 sparkle pens to the school.

Plus Valentine’s gifts for each teacher: A calendar, filled with color and creativity, for every classroom.

Bonnie and the rest of her team enjoyed plenty of smiling faces at Cesar Batalla today.

Who knows? They may find a future designer there too.

(Hat tip: Robin Gusick)

Making a valentine, today at Cesar Batalla School.

Making a valentine, today at Cesar Batalla School.