Food rescue prevents waste and provides more high-quality donations for programs

Sharon Preston’s white Jeep pulls up to the Aldi in Broadview every Monday morning around 9 a.m. She grabs a cart and heads inside – but she’s not leisurely scanning the aisles for deals. She weaves past the morning shoppers and strides to the back of the store, where two shopping carts loaded with food have just been rolled out from the storage area.

Sharon, the manager of the Grace Central Church food pantry, isn’t doing her weekly grocery run. She’s picking up food donations for the pantry as part of the agency-enabled food rescue program.

“The program has been very, very helpful,” Sharon said.

Agency-enabled food rescue matches partner agencies with grocery retailers in their community that have food rescue donations available. After completing a training course that includes information on food safety and retail relations, agencies are qualified to pick up those donations weekly.

“The agency-enabled food rescue program serves two important roles,” said Sheila Creghin, Food Depository vice president of operations. “It provides our partners with an additional source of high-quality protein, produce, dairy and shelf-stable food for their clients. And, it further reduces food waste at retailers which we previously might not have been able to collect product from.”

“Clients have told me how grateful they are. They tell me all the time that we’re the best pantry they’ve ever been to.”

Sharon Preston, manager of the Grace Central Church food pantry

After Sharon finishes at the Aldi in Broadview, she heads to another nearby Aldi to collect more donated product. From just two stores, she collects nearly 350 pounds of food. On average, agencies receive more than 2,000 pounds of additional product per month through agency-enabled food rescue.

For Grace Central, the program has meant a more consistent supply of meat for pantry clients.

“We purchase some protein from the Food Depository, but agency-enabled gives us a larger variety to distribute,” Sharon said.

And the response from clients?

“It’s been amazing,” Sharon said. “Clients have told me how grateful they are. They tell me all the time that we’re the best pantry they’ve ever been to.”

In fiscal year 2017, 11 agencies utilized the program, collecting 535,000 pounds of food.