Volunteer Drivers for Food Rescue US Reroute D.C.’s Excess Food to the Homeless
“In the three or four runs that I’ve done so far, they say I’ve already rescued 650 meals.”
“I don’t care if we have to put them in my kid’s car seat, we’re taking these meals,” Jaime Rothbard says as she navigates the Tetris-like task of loading plastic containers holding everything from chicken sandwiches and lasagna to snack packs of crackers and carrot sticks.
She furrows her brow as she packs 547 meals into the back of her Audi wagon with the determination of a boxer entering the ring. Only instead of another gloved-up opponent, Rothbard is fighting food waste.
Every Tuesday morning, the Takoma Park mom who hosts the “Food Warriors” podcast drives to Revolution Foods in Hyattsville, Maryland, to pick up excess food. The provider of school meals doesn’t always nail the moving target of how much the schools need per day because it employs a better-safe-than-sorry model.
“Because we serve pretty much millions of meals a day, there’s going to be excess,” says the company’s Alysha Groghan. “We want to make sure that if something gets lost in the mix that we have extra to replenish.”
Having a surfeit of food is far from uncommon. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), 40 percent of all food in the U.S. goes uneaten each year, which amounts to $162 billion in wasted food annually. More tangibly, the average family of four spends $1,500 a year on food they never eat, and each American wastes approximately 290 pounds of food annually.
Rothbard to the rescue. Literally.
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Rothbard’s adopted route involves picking up meals from Revolution Foods and delivering them to N Street Village—a nonprofit on 14th Street NW dedicated to helping homeless and low-income women.
When she pulls up, N Street Village’s Adam Brunell wheels out two shopping carts to fill with the meals. But two carts aren’t enough for the bounty that makes its way down to kitchen manager Laurie Williams, who has been with the organization for 18 years.
Williams explains that her kitchen provides breakfast, lunch, and an afternoon snack to the women of N Street Village, plus additional meals to those living in the affiliated shelter across the street. Williams feeds anywhere from 80 to 120 people per day, depending on the time of the month. “Most get checks at the beginning of the month,” she says. “Some of them get the money and they go.”
Without N Street Village, Brunell says some of his clients, ranging from their twenties to the elderly, would be on the streets. Others would fail in their efforts to beat addiction because they’d still be living with people who are using. Then there are the women who could still be living with abusive partners. “Some people society won’t give a second chance, so we try to provide whatever that means,” he says. Another percentage of women at N Street Village are emerging from the criminal justice system.
“The scope is so far-reaching at this place,” says Rothbard.