‘Help Ever, Waste Not’: Mesa, AZ
The statistics on food waste are startling. Roughly one third of food produced in the world for human consumption (1.3 billion tons) gets wasted every year. Fruits and vegetables, in particular, have the highest percentage of waste. Fortunately, many grocery stores partner with food banks and other charitable organizations to donate their excess produce to prevent waste. Often, volunteers are needed to transport the distressed food from grocers to food banks.
In early 2020, during the pandemic and with families facing unemployment, it was difficult for people to put food on their table. The Jain group at SRLC-USA, a global nonprofit humanitarian organization, stepped up to deal with the long lines at the food banks within the Phoenix community. They established a partnership with the Safeway Supermarket chain and transported unsold distressed food from a dozen Safeway stores to local food banks. The service began in April, 2020. About 10 members of the Sri Sathya Sai Center of Mesa, AZ joined the Jain group and volunteered to pick up and drop off distressed food from three Safeway stores to two organizations, Mom’s Pantry Food Bank and Andre House Hospitality Center.
Through this service, volunteers were able to save about 750 pounds of food, including fresh fruits and vegetables as well as baked goods, every week for the first three months during the peak of the pandemic crisis, and 150-200 pounds of food a week presently. Not only do volunteers provide food, that would otherwise be wasted, to those desperately in need, they also help the environment by reducing waste sent to landfills. The service also helps build in volunteers a sense of food consciousness, a deep awareness of the critical value food plays in our daily lives.
One young adult volunteer expressed, "Volunteering with several ardent volunteers who selflessly dedicate time and energy to this project weekly is inspirational. This has been a humbling experience to say the least. Dedicating two hours each Saturday morning to transport food so as to end hunger and food waste, makes a meaningful difference in my life.” A staff volunteer at Andre House reflected, “We usually serve between 400 and 600 meals weekly for guests who enjoy our savory menus. Healthy food options such as fresh vegetables as well as tasty snack donations are greatly appreciated. Our aim is to serve healthy nutritious food, and donations of this caliber make all the difference!”