CHS: Group rescues food that didn’t sell, bikes it to food banks and affordable housing

Photo by Alex Garland/CHS. Used with permission.

Photo by Alex Garland/CHS. Used with permission.

Our society wastes an astounding amount of food. Meanwhile, people in our own communities struggle with food insecurity or could use some help making tight budgets work.

That’s where Seattle Food Rescue comes in. Founder Tim Jenkins told Josh Kelety at Capitol Hill Seattle about the organization he founded to help connect fresh, perishable foods that didn’t sell at smaller grocery stores to people who could use some free food.

Inspired by Boulder Food Rescue, Seattle Food Rescue started by delivering primarily to food banks. But recently, the organization has expanded to serve affordable housing buildings directly.

From CHS:

America has a major food waste problem. That’s why for the past two years Seattle Food Rescue—a small volunteer non-profit organization of mostly college students — has been biking to grocery stores around Central Seattle picking up excess consumable food and delivering the goods to food banks and community partners around the city. Now, Seattle Food Rescue is partnering with Capitol Hill Housing to bring groceries right to the doors of residents at several properties.

“In an ideal world, all the food waste would be diverted from landfills to people who need it,” said Tim Jenkins, founder of Seattle Food Rescue. “That’s where we’d like to be headed.”

So why bicycles?

“I really liked the food distribution model that was focused around bicycles,” said Jenkins. “So I took that model and brought it out to Seattle and I’ve been slowly but surely expanding it ever since.”

Utilizing ten converted bicycle child carriers purchased on craigslist—which Jenkins says often get stolen because they are a “hot commodity—Seattle Food Rescue’s army of thirteen to twenty primarily student volunteers transport roughly fifty pounds of food from local grocery stores five times a week.

A few weeks ago, I asked the question: What can Seattle’s bike movement do to help end homelessness? Well, one way to help may be volunteering at Seattle Food Rescue, transforming your time and leg power into free food for people who could use it.

And if you know any grocery sellers who may be interested in donating to Seattle Food Rescue, have them email seattlefoodrescue@gmail.com.

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4 Responses to CHS: Group rescues food that didn’t sell, bikes it to food banks and affordable housing

  1. Ben P says:

    I wish all grocery stores participated in this. When I worked at Safeway, it was made very clear we had to trash all damaged product. There may be inventory and liability reasons for the policy, but considering how many people struggle for food, the policy strikes me as heartless. Even just letting employees take damaged product home would be huge. It’s definitely demoralizing when corporate can’t afford to give employees enough to not need EBT, but then has no compunction wasting anything with dinged packaging.

    • Anonymous says:

      I have dumpster dived at Safeway many times. I can verify that they throw out an immense amount of perfectly good food. A lot of it is just when an item’s box is damaged/dented/sliced, even though the inner bag is still sealed (think dented cereal box).

  2. Ben P says:

    I love these cargo by bike projects. So often the convenience of trucks means even small loads are just stuck on big trucks. Trucks are also often used like moving warehouses. Bicycles may not be set up for many of the trips trucks handle, but given the environmental costs, I feel like trucks should only be used with hesitation. These set precedent. Sometimes you don’t need a truck.

  3. jdg says:

    there are some “different” state level guidelines for donating food in washington compared to the federal “Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act”

    http://www.doh.wa.gov/CommunityandEnvironment/Food/FoodWorkerandIndustry/CharityFoodDonations

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