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"Rescuing" Local Food
Norwalk non-profit provides surplus food for needy
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Norwalk, CT | Added on September 12, 2013 At 11:25 AM

This is a typical day for Norwalk non-profit Community Plates -- taking food from one place and delivering it to food pantries.  They call it a "food rescue."

"[We] rescue food from restaurants, grocers, bakers, farmers, farmers markets, caterers," says executive director Kevin Mullins.  "This is food that otherwise would have been thrown away, and it's usable food."

"The key is, it's often fresh, usable food that would have been thrown away otherwise."

Hence the phrase "food rescue."  And that's the name of the game for Mullins:  saving food from being thrown out and getting it to those who need it.

"We see ourselves as standing in between the dumpster and the facility that would have thrown it away," he says.  "We say, 'No, this food has value' and we want to get it somewhere it can be used."

Mullins says his non-profit rescues close to 130,000 meals per month, doling that food out to 29 different agencies in Fairfield County, like Person-to-Person in South Norwalk. 

"Twenty percent of the meat, fresh produce and bread we get comes from Community Plates," says Person-to-Person Norwalk site manager Ed Kearns.

Mullins says hunger in America "makes no sense."

"There is no shortage of food in the U.S.," he says.  "It's just a problem with logistics.  It's just a problem of getting the food where it needs to be."

Kearns says one of the biggest challenges for any food pantry is getting fresh produce and fresh meat.

"Community Plates provides that to us," he says.

Mullins himself took us on this food rescue, but most of the time it's volunteers making these runs.

"In order to receive their instructions -- where they're going to go, who they're going to talk to -- our food runners go directly to a phone app we developed," Mullins says.

That backbone of volunteers has helped Community Plates branch out in Ohio and New Mexico.  It will launch four more sites nationally in 2014, which means higher goals for the coming year.

"Our goal is to save 3 million meals nationally in the coming year," Mullins says.

If you'd like to learn more about Community Plates or even sign up for food runs, visit www.communityplates.org.


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