Food rescue

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Food rescue, also called food recovery, is the practice of safely retrieving edible food that would otherwise go to waste, and distributing it to those in need.

The recovered food is edible, but often not saleable. Products that are at or past their “sell by” dates or are imperfect in any way – a bruised apple or day-old bread – are donated by grocery stores, food vendors, restaurants, and farmers markets. Other times, the food is unblemished, but restaurants may have made or ordered too much, or may have edible pieces of food (such as scraps of fish or meat) that are byproducts of process of preparing foods to cook and serve. In addition, food manufacturers may donate product that marginally fails quality control or that has become short-dated.

Americans waste more than 40% of the food produced for consumption, which comes at an annual cost of at least $100 billion.[1] Meanwhile, more than one-tenth of Americans do not have enough to eat. Similar figures on wastage, shortage (and obesity) are found throughout the Western world.

Organisations that encourage food recovery, food rescue, sharing, gleaning and similar waste-avoidance schemes come under the umbrella of food banks, food pantries or soup kitchens.


In most cases, the rescued food is being saved from being thrown into a dumpster and, ultimately, landfills or other garbage disposal. Food recovered on farms is kept from being plowed under. On farms, the donations often must be harvested, or gleaned, by volunteers. The Society of St. Andrew is one nonprofit organization that gleans fields with volunteers.[2]

Businesses that participate receive tax benefits for their donations and are protected from liability lawsuits by the federal Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act.[3]

Nationwide, numerous food rescue organizations pick up and deliver food in refrigerated trucks. Most are members of Feeding America, formerly America's Second Harvest. Recipient agencies serve people of low and no income.

Second Helpings, Inc. was founded in Indianapolis, Indiana in 1998. The nonprofit organization was founded by three chefs, Kristen Cordoza, Bob Koch, and Jean Paison. They addressed four problems—food waste, hunger, job training, and a source of skilled labor for the local food service industry. Today, Second Helpings volunteers and staff rescue prepare perishable and nonperishable food from wholesalers, retailers and restaurants—preventing unnecessary waste. That food is used to create 3,500 hot, nutritious meals each day that are distributed to 70 social service agencies that feed people in need. The Second Helpings Culinary Job Training program trains disadvantaged adults for careers in the food service industry. As of July 2013, more than 500 adults have graduated from this program, and Second Helpings alumni are now working in Central Indiana as cooks, executive chefs, business owners and culinary instructors.

Founded in Indianapolis, Indiana, in November 2007, the independent nonprofit organization Food Rescue brings together more than 500 volunteers who donate approximately 90 minutes of their time, one night each month, to rescue unserved restaurant food that otherwise would have been discarded, and deliver it to their local food pantries for distribution to those in need. Since November 2007, Food Rescue has scheduled an estimated retail value of $1 million in food rescues annually around the country. The rapidly growing organization currently has chapters in Indianapolis, Greenwood, and Muncie, Indiana; Greenville, South Carolina; Charlotte, North Carolina; Ft. Worth, Texas; Minneapolis, Minnesota; St. Paul, Minnesota; Naples, New York; and Fredericksburg, Norfolk, and Reston, Virginia, and continually is expanding into other areas.

In North Carolina, the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle has been rescuing food since 1989.[4] As of 2007, the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle rescued more than 5 million pounds (2,300 tonnes) of food annually, and distributed that food to about 200 programs, including shelters, soup kitchens, pantries, and housing authority neighborhoods. Volunteers also prepare grocery bags of fresh fruits, vegetables and breads to deliver door-to-door to seniors on fixed incomes and low-income single parent households. Other nationally recognized food rescue organizations include, City Harvest, D.C. Central Kitchen and Philabundance.

Some food rescue organizations specialize in surplus produce, which is more difficult to distribute than many prepared foods due to its short shelf life. One such organization is Fair Foods, which has been distributing surplus produce to the Boston area since 1988, distributing over 6,000 pounds of fresh food daily.[5] With a mission of keeping everyone in Boston full and healthy, Fair Foods distributes mixed bags of produce at over 20 sites in the Boston metro area.[6]

Some organizations, like Waste No Food, use technology to notify charities where and when excess food is available to aid in their food recovery efforts.

The benefit of many such food rescue programs is they offer healthy food to those in need, but who may not meet the application requirements of state food-assistance programs. Many such programs also provide immediate emergency assistance, without having to wait through an application process. Food rescue organizations are not restricted by the cost or availability of food, as so much edible food is thrown out and free for the taking, so there is no reason to restrict eligibility. This organizational model often allows food rescues to provide nutritional assistance more quickly, flexibly, and accessibly than other types of hunger relief programs.

At the individual level, food recovery is practised by both freegans and by dumpster-diving.

Other Countries[edit]


In Australia, OzHarvest was launched in November 2004. Foodbank is by far the largest hunger relief organisation in Australia with a presence in every state and territory.


Canada's Second Harvest Toronto, in operation since 1985. BC's Squamish Helping Hands Society


Food rescue charities outside the United States include Israel's Leket Israel-The National Food Bank

New Zealand[edit]

New Zealand's first food rescue organisation is Kaibosh. Operating in Wellington, it was founded in August, 2008. FoodShare, providing food rescue for the city of Dunedin in the South Island of New Zealand commenced operations in March 2012.


In Singapore the Foodbank Singapore is running their own Food rescue project, by collecting food excess in various places around the Islandstate.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Wasted Food
  2. ^ The Society of St. Andrew
  3. ^ Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act
  4. ^ Inter-Faith Food Shuttle
  5. ^ Fair Foods
  6. ^ Fair Foods Two Dollar a Bag program
  7. ^ "Food rescue project details". Retrieved 29 July 2015. 

External links[edit]