“Stop Food Waste and Feed the Hungry in Boston at 8 p.m.” That intriguing opportunity caught the eye of Green Needham member Jay Delaune, who was perusing the volunteer listings on VolunteerMatch.org. One click led him to the volunteer page of Rescuing Leftover Cuisine (RLC), an organization that helps stop food waste while fighting hunger. RLC volunteers pick up bags of food which would have been thrown out by restaurants or caterers, and transport them to a designated homeless shelter or community center.
The Metro Boston team of Rescuing Leftover Cuisine coordinates over 100 volunteers to pick up food, providing them with helpful task overviews that explain whom to call and where to take the rescued food.. Volunteers are able to sign up online for as many specific days and places as they want.
Many of the pick-ups are at the six Pret A Manger (“Ready to Eat”) food stores in Boston. The food chain, which sells sandwiches, salads and baguettes made fresh daily, cooperates with Rescuing Leftover Cuisine, giving RLC volunteers the packaged food that is cleared from their refrigerated shelves on a nightly basis — often about 40 pounds.
Jay Delaune decided to sign up for trips to pick up food from the Pret A Manger at South Station, getting his exercise by carrying two large, black garbage bags of food to the Boston Rescue Mission, a homeless shelter in downtown Boston.
“The workers at the shelter are always glad to see the delivery,” explains Jay, “and I can only imagine the disappointment if they are expecting food but an RLC shift is left unfilled – which does happen. With more volunteers, we can make sure that never happens. The store workers are equally pleased to know that their cuisine is not being wasted but has the chance of being shared with someone who will appreciate the nicely packaged and tasty food.”
Jay, who is Green Needham’s team leader for Food Waste and Recycling, sees great potential in getting unused food to those in need. He hopes that businesses can strike a balance between donating unused food and tightening their production and ordering practices so that not as much food is left over in the first place.
Rescuing Leftover Cuisine is one of several food rescue programs that have proliferated in the Boston area and appreciate volunteers or donations. Food Link, based in Arlington, MA, works with 12 local grocery and prepared food stores, collecting high-quality food that would otherwise be wasted. The food is delivered to organizations such as after-school programs, programs for at-risk youth, low income housing facilities, homeless shelters, food pantries, and senior centers.
Boston Area Gleaners works with local farmers, providing volunteers to harvest what would otherwise be plowed under. This high-quality produce is then delivered to food banks, pantries, and meal programs.
Attend Green Needham’s Wednesday, November 29 presentation on “Moving Toward a Zero Waste Future” (7 p.m. at the Needham Library) to see how Olin College is working with Food for Free to recapture fresh food for emergency food programs and individuals in need.