Millicent Martin Emery
2:59 p.m. EDT October 10, 2016
Volunteers already have been collecting extra food from local schools to feed the hungry, but organizers now are reaching out to local restaurants and institutions to expand the collection in a project called Wayne County Food Rescue.
The program is designed to recover good food that otherwise would be thrown out and then distribute it to social service organizations.
Wayne County Food Rescue has become a partnership of several community agencies. The Wayne County Food Council has been formed to oversee the project with Purdue Extension in Wayne County a cooperating partner. Circle U Help Center in Richmond has been in contact with the Wayne County Health Department about the program.
Reid Health and Earlham College recently joined as contributing food donors.
For instance, on Friday, 25 serving trays of food were picked up from Reid. Some of that food then was served Saturday at Circle U's meal. Other items will be served at Tuesday's lunch. And the food service program at Earlham, which is operated by Metz Culinary Management, has been supplying food to Circle U about two days a week.
In addition to the social and environmental benefits of keeping food out of the landfill, donating can provide a tax benefit. Federal law allows the donation value of the contributed food to be deducted at 150 percent of either cost value or actual retail value, whichever is greater.
Some chest freezers about the size of a washing machine are being made available at no cost to local businesses and institutions that are willing to store their leftover items for pickup. Food will be collected from the restaurants as they prefer, either on a schedule or when called to request a pickup. Donors can choose how often, what day and what time food will be collected, even in the evenings.
Financial assistance has come from K-12 Food Rescue in Carmel, Ind., to buy the first five freezers.
Transportation will be handled either by volunteers or by the Depot Taxi company as needed, so cash donations are encouraged to help offset that cost. Thermal blankets will be used as the food is transported to Circle U at 19 N. 13th St., where freezers and refrigerators are available to keep the food safe.
After the food arrives at Circle U, a list of items will be distributed to social agencies that serve meals to those in need. Recipient agencies in the program so far include Circle U, The Salvation Army, Hope House, Rock Solid Ministries, the YWCA's Genesis shelter and Cross Road Recovery Center, and more are welcome to join.
Donations also are sought from churches or other organizations that have leftovers from large events such as banquets. The food recovered will be entered into a spreadsheet maintained bywww.foodrescue.net so organizers can track results of the program.
The local food rescue also has partnered with a national program,www.foodtodonate.com. Through that group, Wayne County Food Rescue is on the waiting list for leftovers from national chains such as Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Chipotle, Starbucks, Pizza Hut, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Taco Bell and McDonald's.
If other Wayne County communities want to join the program in the future, they would need to find a location that would have space for a freezer where it could be accessed by donors as needed, such as a fire station.
How did the food rescue start?
Wayne County Food Rescue is now part of the 501(c)(3) program Christian Charities Inc.
Christian Charities began rescuing food through a program it called The Milkman, which collected leftover food from Richmond Community Schools on a weekly basis to distribute to social service agencies. Items picked up included extra fruit that already had been cut or sandwiches already prepared that otherwise would go to waste. Students also can put prepackaged foods such as carrot sticks that they do not want on the "share table."
The food pickup sites that already were being served that now are part of Wayne County Food Rescue are RCS' Central Kitchen, Dennis Intermediate, Vaile Elementary and Charles Elementary schools.
In addition, The Milkman group of volunteers collects extra milk cartons before winter and summer breaks when Richmond Community Schools and Smith Dairy choose to donate them. They were delivered to pantries and organizations serving youth such as Boys & Girls Clubs of Wayne County.
Christian Charities already has become known in the community for offering the Backpack Blessing program to pack and deliver sacks of lunch items for children to take home once a month. Backpack Blessing began in 2008 when a principal asked for help in feeding children on the last weekend of the month when their benefits had run out. The children came to school hungry on the next Monday and their classroom performance suffered until lunch.
Through Backpack Blessing, sacks are given to all children in the schools that have an 85-percent rate for free or reduced-price lunches. The schools served in 2015-2016 year were Starr, Vaile, Crestdale and Fairview elementaries in Richmond and Hagerstown Elementary.
In the future, when the Wayne County Food Council becomes a 501(c)(3) agency, the food rescue can be transferred to it.
Those wanting more information are encouraged to visit the Christian Charities website, www.backpackblessing.org. By clicking on the "Food Rescue" tab, prospective donors can find more information about the tax benefits and legal liabilities involved in donating food. Local attorney David Burton has provided legal assistance for the food rescue.
The federal Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act signed into law in 1996 protects donors acting in good faith, except for gross negligence or intentional misconduct.
How to help
Wayne County Food Rescue aims to pick up from local businesses and institutions unused food that can be frozen and served to those in need.
Those wanting more information about donating are encouraged to visit the Christian Charities website, www.backpackblessing.org, and click on the "Food Rescue" tab. Questions can be directed to Eric Weiss at Circle U Help Center at (765) 993-5073 or Guy Guthrie with Christian Charities at (765) 962-7707.
Donations for the food rescue's costs, including the purchase of freezers and taxi service pickup of items from restaurants, can be sent to Christian Charities Inc., 3121 Southeast Parkway, Richmond, IN 47374.