‘So much food going to waste’
“Even if it was dated that day, I know I can get it into the hands of families that need it,” said Claudia Wheeler, founder and sole operator of the Salt Foundation, a Jersey City-based nonprofit that rescues 800-1,200 pounds of food in a typical a day.
Wheeler said she’s seeing more demand for food now because some volunteer-run pantries are closing down as the pandemic ebbs, leaving their customers looking for other sources.
“During COVID there were a lot of community organizations that wanted to help the community,” she said. “That has gone down a lot and that has increased the amount of food I get and the number of people who come to me.”
She rescues food from Trader Joe’s, Wegmans and Walmart, and redistributes it through food pantries and churches. She also runs her own distribution events and has recently expanded those to twice weekly because “there’s so much food going to waste.”
Carlos Roldan, program director for a food-pantry program run by Catholic Charities in Paterson, Franklin and Dover, estimated that 15% of his total food is rescued from supermarkets and other sources.
The rescued food helps to feed some 20,000 people a month, said Roldan, who gives out 1,000 bags of food a day.
Close to sell-by date
He recently received three pallets of cheese about 10 days before its sell-by date of March 14. The donor decided it would be unable to sell the cheese by that date but Roldan accepted it because he knew it would be in strong demand.
Produce that is beginning to wilt or otherwise looks unsellable is another likely donation, and Roldan knows his clients will gladly accept it. “A lot of vegetables that are starting to look kind of ugly we can take,” he said. “I know we can use them right away.”
His suppliers include Costco in Wayne, which donates six to eight pallets of produce per week, according to a spokeswoman.
But there’s less food available for donation now that people are working and shopping more, the spokeswoman said. “Right now, our sales are picking up so it’s not as much being left over for the next day to be given away. People are going back to work so they are shopping more.”
Donors are motivated by the Food Waste Law, and by a growing awareness that they can reduce waste and feed the hungry at the same time, said Kinner of Table to Table.
“So many of these companies are looking towards the environment, and knowing that they are throwing away good stuff that people should be eating,” she said. “We’re lucky enough to benefit from it.”