3 times per week, Sunshine Ferguson pulls out a cart filled with leftover meals from the LECOM Senior Residing Heart.
Monday’s cart had coated aluminum plates crammed with stuffing, turkey and pulled pork, together with cinnamon raisin bread, and containers of milk, juice and supplemental drinks. It was all meals not consumed in the course of the weekend by the residents of the middle and near its expiration date or time.
“Earlier than, all of this might have gone straight into the trash and it might break my coronary heart to waste good meals,” mentioned Ferguson, the middle’s diet supervisor. “It is not an enormous quantity, however I knew somebody may use it.”
As a substitute of going to a landfill, the middle’s additional meals is now transported to Group Shelter Companies or one other nonprofit company that feeds individuals in want. Lake Erie Meals Rescue volunteers decide up the meals and ship it inside an hour to the place will probably be eaten.
serving to the hungry
Lake Erie Meals Rescue was launched a little bit over a yr in the past by Kevin McCaslin and Jeff Kuzdzal, however was initially prompted by what McCaslin noticed when he was working for an area grocery retailer years in the past.
“I noticed how a lot meals is wasted daily,” McCaslin mentioned. “It actually caught with me. I assumed there needed to be a solution to get that meals to individuals who may use it.”
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Sooner or later, McCaslin was searching social media when she observed a pop-up advert for 412 Meals Rescue, which transports extra meals within the Pittsburgh space. Intrigued, he approached the group to see if he may deliver the service to Erie.
He visited 412 Meals Rescue in late 2020 to study the way it conducts enterprise and raises cash to cowl prices. He and Kuzdzal later created the Lake Erie Meals Rescue and joined the Meals Rescue Hero Community, which incorporates 13 different organizations in the US and Canada.
“I discovered that there are three primary events: the meals donors, the volunteers and the companies that obtain meals,” McCaslin mentioned.
McCaslin personally went to nursing houses, faculties, eating places and grocery shops to see if they might be keen to donate unused meals. Along with LECOM Senior Residing Heart, Mercyhurst College/Parkhurst Meals Companies can be one of many preliminary donors.
She then reached out to the companies that present free meals and discovered in the event that they wanted extra meals. The ultimate piece was the volunteers: McCaslin was the principle transporter of meals for many of final yr.
“We now have 5 volunteers who’re racing,” McCaslin mentioned. “We’ll want extra as we become old. Our aim is to do about 20 races per week.”
McCaslin and Kuzdzal lately launched an app, the Meals Rescue Hero app, to assist streamline the method of transporting meals. Volunteers are notified when meals is offered to select up and may swipe to say transportation.
How to participate
Organizations wishing to donate or obtain meals, or people wishing to donate cash, could contact McCaslin at www.lakeeriefoodrescue.org.
Community Shelter Services, 655 W. 16th St., gets a shipment from Lake Erie Food Rescue at least once a week, said Katie Confer, director of development for the agency. It allows your staff to provide customers with a fourth meal or afternoon snack.
“Lake Erie Food Rescue is very consistent and very generous in what they can provide us with,” said Confer. “This helps us provide a meal or snack for people after school or work.”
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Lake Erie Food Rescue isn’t the first Erie-based organization to take excess food and transport it to people in need. Second Harvest Food Bank has provided a similar service for 40 years. Although both organizations have sought food from the same donors, McCaslin said he is not in competition with Second Harvest.
“I would say we’re complementary, not competitive,” McCaslin said. “I can tell you that there is a greater need for this service than there was five years ago.”
In an email, Second Harvest spokeswoman Natalie Massing declined to comment on the Lake Erie Food Rescue because “we are not affiliated with them. We can only tell you what Second Harvest does. When it comes to feeding the hungry, we hope everyone in our community gets involved to make our community a better place.”
McCaslin said there is a lot of need and additional food for both his nonprofit and Second Harvest. He cited data published by the US Department of Agriculture that between 30% and 40% of the country’s food is wasted.
“What we’re doing is trying to fill in the cracks,” McCaslin said. “We’re taking this food that would otherwise be thrown away and bringing it to the people who could use it.”
Contact David Bruce at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @ETNBruce.