The Community Foundation’s Taste of Philanthropy Series Explores Creative Ideas to End Food Waste & Hunger

By Anna Hargrave, The Community Foundation in Montgomery County

The concept behind The Community Foundation’s “Taste of Philanthropy” is simple: Think about how to make an impact on a cause that we care about. No agenda. No sales pitch. Just friends and neighbors coming together for a community conversation, carving out time to explore, dream, and ask questions. 20140920_173900

And thus, the “Taste of Philanthropy” series continued on Saturday, September 20, 2014 at the family home of Pat and Craig Ruppert. As long-time advocates for hunger relief, they decided to bring folks together around a single question:

What creative ideas, big and small, could transform Montgomery County into a zero-waste community where no one goes hungry?

To kick off the conversation, we called on Ben Simon to brief the group on the needs and opportunities here in Montgomery County. Ben is the Executive Director of the Food Recovery Network as well as Co-Founder of Hungry Harvest.

Ben shocked many of the guests who did not know…

  • Over 78,000 of our neighbors in Montgomery County are considered “food insecure” because they don’t know where their next meal will come from.
  • Right here in Montgomery County, we waste over 57 million pounds of food each year.
  • About 40% of food in the United States today goes uneaten. This not only means that Americans are throwing out the equivalent of $165 billion each year, but also that the uneaten food ends up rotting in landfills.

The group was heartened by Ben’s report that Montgomery County is becoming a hotbed of innovation as many creative leaders seek out solutions to tackle both our hunger problem and our food waste problems at 20140920_172150the same time.

“My favorite moment of the evening came during the Q&A,” explains Pat Ruppert. “One of our guests, a skeptic of sorts, asked whether all of these ideas could really make a dent on world hunger. Ben shared that ‘reducing our food losses by just 15% would be enough food to feed more than 25 million Americans every year. So, yes, if we make a zero-waste food system, I think we could have the resources to solve world hunger.’ ”

The group animatedly shared ideas on that glorious fall afternoon, surrounded by peaceful views of the Ruppert family farm. Here is just a small sampling of the ideas that people generated: 

Small changes – Big Impact

Everyone realized there are simple changes each of us can do to reduce food waste and make sure our neighbors also get enough to eat.  

  • Sign up for Hungry Harvest, a new service providing fresh produce delivered right to your door. And for every bag that you buy, Hungry Harvest will give a bag to a family in need.
  • Join a Community Supported Agriculture cooperative (CSA) such as the Red Wiggler Community Farm. On top of providing organic produce for the whole community, they provide meaningful jobs to adults with developmental disabilities.
  • Speak to your favorite local restaurants, grocery stores, caterers, and other food businesses and ask them to participate in food recovery through the new County-wide Community Food Rescue initiative.
  • Compost your food scraps into soil to grow more food–creating a farm-to-fork-to-farm pipeline. Contact GrowingSOUL to take advantage of their compost pick-up service.  

Passion Into Action

There are many local organizations working to tackle the issue of hunger and food waste. Here is a short list of nonprofits where you can invest time, talent, and treasure in order to make a big difference.

  • Food Recovery Network unites college students to fight food waste and hunger by recovering food that otherwise would go from their campuses to donate to people in need.
  • Crossroads Community Food Network works to improve access to fresh, local, healthy food through innovative programs and models mutually supportive of those who grow our food and those who eat it.
  • Food & Friends delivers food to people living with HIV/AIDS, cancer and other life-challenging illnesses.
  • Manna Food runs the county-wide distribution program provides healthy groceries to approximately 3,300 families each month.
  • Nourish Now leverages its relationships with restaurants, caterers, and other licensed food providers to secure donations of surplus prepared food.   Its team of volunteers collects, repackages and distributes donated food to low-income families.
  • The Shepherd’s Table provides meals and other support to people in need and those experiencing homeless.
  • St. Camillus Food Pantry is a volunteer-run service which provides food to local families at risk for hunger.  

What to learn more?

Your Community Foundation team gathered a few handy resources so you can learn more about the issue of food waste and hunger-relief efforts.

  • Bethesda Magazine’s September/October edition featured a thoughtful article called “The Hunger Fighters” which explores the issue of hunger in Montgomery County.
  • Our colleagues at the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers published a handy two-page report on “What Funders Need to Know about the Food System.” This provides a great crash course on the needs as well as strategies for how make a difference. 

For more information about the Taste of Philanthropy series, contact Anna Hargrave at 301-495-3036 x 161 or ahargrave@cfncr.org.

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