Con­nect­ing food in­se­cure folks with cater­ing left­overs

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - MARYLAND VOICES -

A bounty of food. That is what you’ll get at most wed­ding re­cep­tions, ban­quets and gala din­ners. Event plan­ners and cater­ers tend to buy too many nib­bles and cook more than needed, usu­ally by as much as 20%, be­cause the one thing they don’t want is to run out. That is a ma­jor no-no.

That means at the end of the night there is al­most al­ways plenty left over — and that food nor­mally winds up in the trash. All the but­tered rolls, shrimp cock­tail and cho­co­late cake that peo­ple were too full to eat goes to waste.

The Mary­land Food Bank has taken no­tice and is try­ing out an ini­tia­tive to elim­i­nate that waste, while also help­ing to feed the hun­gry.

About one in nine Mary­lan­ders are con­sid­ered food­in­se­cure, or don’t have enough to eat. Some of us look for­ward to a feast on Thanks­giv­ing Day, while too many oth­ers will de­pend on the char­ity of food kitchens, churches and other non-prof­its to feed them that day.

Un­der their new Mid­dle Mile pro­gram, the Mary­land Food Bank is link­ing those in the hos­pi­tal­ity, restau­rant and event busi­nesses in Bal­ti­more with vol­un­teers who can im­me­di­ately take left­over food to soup kitchens and other non-prof­its that feed the hun­gry. The busi­nesses can use an app to see what vol­un­teers are avail­able.

Be­fore, busi­nesses faced the dilemma of how to trans­port the food quickly, be­cause it was al­ready cooked. They couldn’t let it sit overnight and risk it not be­ing safe to eat. And most didn’t have the re­sources or time to try to find a non-profit to take the food. Now, with on-de­mand vol­un­teers that come equipped with in­su­lated bags, the food gets to those in need right away.

The food bank had “re­cov­ered” more than 6,200 pounds of food, or 5,167 meals, in Bal­ti­more through the ini­tia­tive as of the end of Oc­to­ber. The Bal­ti­more Con­ven­tion Cen­ter and the National Aquar­ium are among the groups that have turned to the pro­gram to get rid of ex­cess chicken din­ners and other meals.

The Bal­ti­more Farmer’s Mar­ket has do­nated pro­duce us­ing the food bank’s web of vol­un­teers and Pi­tango Bak­ery in Fells Point has been able to give its gourmet sand­wiches to peo­ple in need.

The pro­gram has al­lowed the food bank to tap into new food sources to feed Bal­ti­more’s hun­gry. The food in­se­cu­rity rate in Bal­ti­more is twice that of the national av­er­age, but less than 10% of food comes from within the city. The food bank dis­trib­uted more than 10.5 mil­lion pounds of food in Bal­ti­more last year, and only 700,000 came from donors lo­cated in the city.

The Mid­dle Mile pro­gram is a promis­ing ini­tia­tive that is help­ing to get hot meals to those who need it while help­ing restau­rants and other busi­ness re­duce their food waste. The early re­sults show that it is a pro­gram that could and should be ex­panded through­out the state.

We need more of th­ese kinds of in­no­va­tive ideas to help end the prob­lem of hunger in Mary­land. The econ­omy is im­prov­ing if you look at the stock mar­ket and low un­em­ploy­ment rate, but that isn’t true for ev­ery­one. Too many peo­ple are still suf­fer­ing and won­der­ing where they will get their next meal.

The Mary­land Food Bank dis­trib­uted more than 48 mil­lion pounds of food in fis­cal year 2019, which was al­most 10% more than the pre­vi­ous year. The or­ga­ni­za­tion be­lieves it needs to give out 61 mil­lion pounds a year to ad­e­quately feed the 650,000 peo­ple with­out enough to eat.

Plenty of peo­ple will step for­ward to make sure peo­ple have a de­cent meal on Thanks­giv­ing Day. We all need to re­mem­ber the rest of the year as well.

BSMG FILE

Many Mary­lan­ders will get a free meal on Thanks­giv­ing Day, but strug­gle with enough to eat the rest of the year.

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