Have you ever wondered what happens to the heart-shaped cakes on February 15, the unbroken eggs in a carton with two that are cracked, the unsold food at your favorite restaurant at closing time, or the unpicked oranges on your neighbor’s trees? All these are typically wasted; thrown away. There is lots of good food going to waste in our country; in-date food is removed from store shelves to make way for even fresher food, stores discard food if the label is ripped and throw out the entire five-pound bag if one apple is bruised. Cosmetically imperfect food, like crooked cucumbers and curvy carrots, never even makes it into the stores. In fact, one-quarter of all the food produced in the United States never reaches a consumer.
But not here in North Florida where Waste Not Want Not intercepts or “rescues” food that may be unmarketable or “imperfect” but is perfectly wholesome and safe to consume. We do this by convincing stores, restaurants, vendors, farmers and your neighbors to donate that food to us instead of throwing it away. Our volunteers rescue between 4 and 7 thousand pounds of food daily, transporting all of it to our facility by 10 am. All this food is typically gone by noon the same day, on its way to feed 2,200 hungry people in 14 counties served by our recipient groups.
We could never share so much food by serving individuals. Instead, Waste Not provides food to nonprofits serving the needy in 14 counties who in turn serve individuals. Our volunteers carefully sort the food to match the needs of the recipients so that all the food is put to good use. By matching food to recipients’ needs, Waste Not volunteers ensure that whatever we rescue is put to good use promptly. Waste Not shares groceries with food pantries and churches pantries as well as groups that deliver directly to specific families or group homes like BASCA and McRae Elementary. We provide ingredients for cooked meals to missions like City Rescue Mission and soup kitchens. We distribute backpack-friendly items that do not require cooking along with single-serve drinks to groups that send food home with children on weekends or bring food to the homeless in the woods and on the streets.
Every dollar spent by Waste Not Want Not on Connecting the Dots, our Food Rescue and Distribution Program, results in benefits to the community much greater than a dollar. Waste Not Want Not’s help allows the nonprofits we serve to do more: to feed more people or to use more of their limited funds for non-food services such as teaching, training, or treatment. To put this in perspective, the Green Cove Springs Food Pantry, for example, received 60,000 pounds of food from Waste Not last year. Without Waste Not’s help, the Food Pantry would have had to either raise an additional $120,000 (using a very conservative cost of $2 per pound) to purchase food or turn many people away empty-handed. The same is true for all the groups we serve: Each is able to help more people because of Waste Not Want Not.