Throwing edible food in the trash or even the compost is not ideal — not for the environment, not for the community and not for the bottom line. One Bellingham organization has a solution.
Sustainable Connections has started its food recovery program, where restaurants or other businesses can donate leftover already prepared food to feed hungry people in Whatcom County.
Food waste is a huge problem in the America. The United States Department of Agriculture estimates that between 30-40 percent of the food produced in the US is wasted. In 2010, that translated to about 133 billion pounds of food becoming garbage — valued at $161 billion.
Sustainable Connections, along with several local nonprofits, is trying to reduce Whatcom Counties portion of that number.
Sustainable Connections has a grant from the state Department of Ecology for a new initiative called Squatch Food Waste, aimed at reducing the amount of food that’s thrown away.
The Squatch Food Waste involves several programs for business and individuals: individuals can pledge to reduce the amount of food they throw away, and get tips, including smarter shopping, storing food better, using food scraps and, donating unwanted food.
Restaurants always want to only buy the food they need, but that’s not easy. Restaurants can try and predict how many customers will show up on any night, and how many of those people will want the special or soup of the day or any other dish. Most restaurants will have at least a few servings leftover at the end of the night.
Combining these leftovers from many restaurants around town, that can add up to a lot of food for hungry people in need.
Sustainable Connections and the Ferndale nonprofit Miracle Food Network volunteers pick up food up and distribute it to the organizations that feed people.
They try to serve the food the same day it was picked up.
More than 16 businesses have signed up for the food recovery program and hopes are more will join in. Any local business that makes prepared food can participate.
Lighthouse Mission Ministries, Miracle Food Network, Northwest Youth Services, Ferndale Food Bank and Foothill Community Partnership are the nonprofit groups receiving the donated food at this time.
Businesses get to deduct the cost of the donated leftover food instead of throwing it out helping their bottom line.
Businesses face little liability in the program, a federal law protects donors who, in good faith, give food to a legitimate non-profit organization.
Boundary Bay Brewery has been in the program for more than two months.
Restaurants on a regular pickup route can donate as little as five servings.
The Mt. Baker Care Center, an assisted living facility, was the first business to sign onto the food recovery initiative. Volunteers from the program come to pick up the center’s leftovers right after dinner service.
Hopefully, this service will expand here and nationwide.