In 1990, in an effort to help a Jacksonville soup kitchen, Debra Smyers approached her local supermarket requesting their short-dated food. The store agreed and the kitchen was able to feed more people. From Debra Smyers’ idea to use surplus food to fight hunger, Waste Not Want Not was born.
Waste Not grew slowly but steadily for more than a decade. In 2004, friends of Waste Not decided to transform what was still a group of volunteers working under the auspices of a church into an independent, tax-exempt nonprofit corporation.
The nonprofit experienced such rapid growth that by 2008, we were in need of a larger building and purchased a new facility large enough for our immediate needs and anticipated short-term growth (on a property large enough to accommodate additional buildings for future long-term growth).
In 2009, several vendors began donating large quantities of food which we initially rescued in pickup trucks with trailers before we decided for safety and efficiency sake to lease a truck. In 2010, our 20th anniversary, our volunteers rescued more than one million pounds in a single year.
In 2012, using a grant from the Community Foundation for Northeast Florida, we were able to purchase a used truck.
In 2017, for the first time, we rescued and shared 2 million pounds in a single year which we have done annually since.
In 2020, COVID-19 cancelled most of our 30th anniversary celebrations. It did not, however prevent Waste Not from our mission. Some volunteers stayed home to stay safe, and others stepped up to cover those shifts. Waste Not stayed open every day, and provided 2.1 million pounds of food to people in desperate need of help.
That year, when our first truck died, many, many kind souls donated funds to help us purchase a brand-new truck from Nimnicht Chevrolet (who generously discounted the purchase price).
Over the years, Waste Not Want Not has always remained mission-focused and volunteer-driven. Since 1990, we have rescued and shared more than 27,500,000 pounds of food.
As you watch this video to see Waste Not Want Not in action and our impact, please keep in mind that in the years since this video was made, Waste Not Want Not has grown to help even more people in need. We currently make 130 scheduled rescues and serve at least 70 groups each week. Our volunteers now use our boxtruck instead of their pickup trucks to make large rescues.