About the Organization
Since opening its doors in 1983, Manna Food Center has grown from serving hundreds of people each year to serving more than 30,000 Montgomery County residents. Manna Food Center aims to eliminate hunger in the county through food distribution, nutrition education and advocacy for a stronger social safety net.
In Montgomery County, nearly a quarter of solid municipal waste, or 146,000 tons, is unused food. These food items stem from all sources, including grocery stores, farmers, restaurants, schools and caterers. Wasted food contributes to greenhouse gas pollution and squanders critical resources in the production of that food. At the same time, 63,000 residents struggle with food insecurity. Manna launched Community Food Rescue in 2014 to redirect unsold surplus food before it is wasted. New technological developments can help address this gap.
Inspired by a student-run food recovery program, Community Food Rescue (CFR) partners with hunger relief organizations, volunteers and businesses to diminish food waste in their community. Through a county grant, the program uses ChowMatch, a real-time matching software for recovering and distributing unused food items. ChowMatch connects anti-hunger organizations like food pantries and soup kitchens with businesses that donate unsold food, as well as volunteers to transport the food.
Using ChowMatch, businesses schedule “food runs” where they enter food categories of their unused food, quantity of food and appropriate pick up times. ChowMatch matches the donation with one of the network agencies and rotates agency selection to ensure equal distribution. ChowMatch then sends out an email to a volunteer base. Volunteers can choose to transport that food run.
In addition to using new technological developments, the CFR program educates food recipient agencies and offers competitive mini-grants to increase rescuing capabilities. Education includes workshops on food safety, written guidelines, brochures, website resources and videos about how to handle and transport recovered food safely. CFR also tests volunteers on food safety knowledge before they become active food runners. Along with training, Manna Food Center provides mini-grants for hunger relief organizations to buy refrigerators, storage space and other infrastructure to safely store food.
Since CFR’s start in 2015, the network has grown to include 176 donors, 70 food recipient organizations and 145 volunteers. Cumulatively, 5,345,002 pounds of food have been collected, representing nearly 4.5 million meals.
Manna Food Center partners with the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services as well as multiple community businesses and nonprofit agencies.
2. Loaves & Fishes
Food Recovery Program and Gleaning | South Carolina
About the Organization
Founded in 1991, Loaves & Fishes has tackled hunger by recovering and redistributing food. The Greenville-based nonprofit partners with businesses, farmers, restaurants and other organizations with extra food to address the food waste and food insecurity present in Greenville County, South Carolina.
More than 63,000 residents in Greenville remain food insecure with two-thirds of them in single-parent families with young children. At the same time, there are massive amounts of edible food being thrown away by grocery stores, restaurants and other food-making organizations.
With the help of volunteers, Loaves & Fishes organizes both food recovery trips and food distribution trips. The organization operates seven days a week. Each day, volunteers travel to food donors, including farmers, restaurants, catering companies, etc., to pick up food that would otherwise be wasted. Waste usually stems from mis-stocking, accidental over-orders or aesthetic reasons. Volunteers pick up this food using refrigerated boxed trucks, and then bring it straight to the food recipient, such as a food pantry or homeless shelter. Most of these trips are planned ahead of time; however, Loaves & Fishes also works with call-ins.
To maximize the amount of donated produce, Loaves & Fishes works with farmers and other organizations for gleaning operations. Loaves & Fishes partners with the Society of St. Andrews’ Beechwood Farms gleaning program. Volunteers from the society glean, or extract, food that is unsellable because of aesthetic reasons. Volunteers from Loaves & Fishes travel to pick up the gleaned food items to redistribute to the nonprofit’s partners.
In 2018, Loaves & Fishes coordinated the donation of more than 2.2 million pounds of food to 96 partner agencies around Greenville County. Thanks to the 200 volunteers and 150 food donors, Loaves & Fishes served nearly 280,000 Greenville individual residents.
Loaves & Fishes partners with a variety of private partners. It does not partner with the state of South Carolina. However, similar nonprofits in other states do receive assistance from their state government. For example, the Vermont legislature passed the Universal Recycling Law in 2012, which bans disposal of food waste. This legislation led to an increase of 40% in food donations.
3. Senior Food Pack Program and Mobile Food Pantries
Great Plains Food Bank | North Dakota
About the Organization
Serving as the only food bank in North Dakota, Great Plains is the largest anti-relief organization in the state. Through its staff and large volunteer base, the food bank administers federal child nutrition programs, collaborates with disaster relief organizations, and distributes food to more than 213 partner agency feeding programs across North Dakota and Clay County, Minnesota.
Across the country, an estimated 7.2% of seniors age 60 or older experienced food insecurity in 2019. Several factors contribute to senior hunger, including disability or functional limitations, lack of reliable social support, lack of reliable transportation and a lack of income. Seniors require additional support to fight back against hunger.
The Great Plains Food Bank developed the Senior Food Pack Program from the USDA’s Commodity Supplemental Food Program. The USDA program is a commodity-based program, providing nutritionally balanced, shelf-stable food packages. North Dakotans age 60 and over with incomes of less than 130% of the federal poverty line are eligible for the program. The Food Bank runs this program in 25 counties across North Dakota, feeding seniors from all demographics.
Food packages include a variety of foods, such as milk, juice, oats, cereal, rice, pasta, peanut butter, dry beans, canned meat, poultry, fish, and canned fruits and vegetables. In 2018, the Great Plains Food Bank introduced fresh produce into its food packages.
In addition to the Senior Food Pack Program, the food bank implemented a mobile food pantry program and a pop-up perishable food program. The former distributes fresh vegetables, meat, bakery items and boxed goods to a distribution site close to people in need. This program helps seniors or other community members who are unable to travel far distances to acquire food. The latter rescues perishable foods from grocery stores, bakeries, restaurants, hospitals, colleges, schools and grocery wholesalers in the Fargo-Moorhead and Bismarck-Mandan areas and delivers the food to shelters, soup kitchens and food pantries.
As of May 2019, the Great Plains Food Bank serves around 650 seniors every other month. Seniors have reported a high rate of satisfaction with the program and the introduction of fresh fruits and vegetables.
The Great Plains Food Bank partners with Feeding America, the nation’s largest hunger-relief charity, as well as with the North Dakota Department of Education and the United States Department of Agriculture.
4. Darden Harvest and Food Donation Connection
Throughout the U.S.
About the Organization
Darden Restaurants is committed to aiding in the fight against hunger through its partnership with Feeding America and Food Donation Connection (FDC).
In 2019, the Darden Foundation provided $2 million to support Feeding America and its member food banks across all 50 states. For every dollar donated, Feeding America can supply 10 meals to people in need, adding up to 20 million meals in 2019. These efforts go hand in hand with the Darden Harvest program—established in 2003 with the support from FDC—in which every one of the restaurant group’s 1,800 restaurants donates food. FDC provides restaurants and retail establishments with alternatives to discarding surplus wholesome food by linking food service donors with surplus food to local hunger relief agencies.
Americans throw away more than 25% of the food they prepare—about 96 billion pounds of food waste each year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. At the same time, more than 41 million people struggle with hunger in the United States, including 13 million children and 5 million seniors. That means 1 in 8 households are food insecure, living without consistent access to food.
Each day, across every Darden restaurant, surplus, wholesome food that isn’t served to guests is “harvested” and safely prepared for donation to a local nonprofit partner. Following a strict process to ensure the food’s quality and safety, the food is prepared, frozen and picked up regularly by an organization in the FDC network. FDC’s role is to link the donors with food rescue groups or organizations feeding the needy, and to assist in developing product quality and handling standards, tax valuation, donation reporting, and ongoing monitoring and follow-up to ensure program implementation and growth. In addition to tax benefits, donors receive corporate goodwill, enhanced community involvement and the added benefit of diverting quality food from the waste stream.
Darden Harvest donates nearly 8 million pounds of food every year. Since its inception in 2003, the Harvest program has donated more than 115 million pounds of food to community food banks across the country. That’s the equivalent of more than 95 million meals.
Darden Restaurants, in partnership with Food Donation Connection.
What Can Legislators Do?
- Promote unique solutions to combatting hunger through press events, your newsletter or website, or through resolutions.
- Encourage food retailers in the private sector to partner with food banks to decrease food waste and hunger.
- Encourage community members to volunteer for their local food bank, anti-hunger organization or school.
Examples of Innovative Legislation
In 2015, Georgia created incentives for businesses to donate food to nonprofit organizations. The legislature enacted HB 426, which created a new exemption from state sales and use tax for individual taxpayers who donate food and food ingredients following a natural disaster. The exemption encourages Georgia residents to donate food to nonprofit organizations like food banks.
In 2019, Maryland enacted HB 838, which establishes a Restaurant Meals Program within its Department of Human Services. This program allows disabled and senior residents to purchase certain foods at restaurants using a food supplement benefit.
In 2009, North Dakota enacted S 2231, which provided funds for a partnership between the state’s Department of Human Services and the Great Plains Food Bank. The food bank developed innovative ways to reach rural areas, like the mobile food pantry.
Food Distribution Resources