Hunger throughout our region is quickly on the rise as COVID-19 continues to batter the economy. “Some of our agency partners have seen two to three times as many families needing support,” says April Rog, Director of Food Rescue at Second Harvest Heartland.
Fortunately, hunger is a problem that can be solved with creative solutions and partnerships. Second Harvest Heartland’s Retail Food Rescue program collects millions of pounds of unsold produce, dairy, deli, meat, bakery, and grocery items from more than 450 retail partners. The rescued food is then distributed to food shelves, meal programs, schools and shelters who give the food directly to those who need it.
The program not only gets fresh food on the plates of those who are hungry, it helps the environment by reducing the amount of food that ends up in landfills. Of all the food that comes to Second Harvest Heartland, 34% is food that has been collected for donation through the program.
In fact, the Retail Food Rescue program is one of the fastest-growing sources of food at Second Harvest Heartland. In 2019, 40.6 million pounds of food—the equivalent of 38.8 million meals—were donated by participating partners.
Ben, Emily and their young daughter, Olive, are just a few people who benefit from programs like the Retail Food Rescue Program. They say the food they take home helps them make ends meet. Ben and Emily are especially grateful to receive produce and dairy, and they use the money saved to buy wholesome food for Olive.
“Usually they’re giving out fruits and vegetables, and that’s really helped us ensure that there’s something fresh in the refrigerator,” Ben says. Despite both parents working full time, they often find that they have little money left over to buy food after paying student loans, medical bills, utilities and child care expenses.
“I feel like our paycheck is constantly eaten up so quickly,” Ben says. “It’s always a struggle and a balance to stretch and make it work.”
Second Harvest Heartland and its partners make a powerful difference for families who are struggling, but there is more work to do before we can say no one around us worries about having enough food. Thank you for supporting hunger relief in this time of great need. Your support of Second Harvest Heartland ensures we can continue to provide nutritious meals for those who need them through programs like the Retail Food Rescue Program.