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Midvale Journal

Nonprofit ‘rescues’ food to help feed families in need

Mar 29, 2022 09:48PM ● By Sarah Morton Taggart

By Sarah Morton Taggart | [email protected]

As much as 600,000 tons of food is thrown away in Utah every year. Meanwhile, 500,000 Utahns struggle to find enough to eat. A new program at the Midvale Boys & Girls Club is working to address both of these issues.

Starting in January, volunteers from Waste Less Solutions began preparing healthy, ready-to-serve meals for youth at the Midvale Boys & Girls Club to take home to their families.

The meals are delivered to the club, located at 7631 Chapel St., every Thursday and feed around 15 people.

“The families love it,” said Presley Austin, the Midvale Club director. “It’s nice for them to not have to go home and cook dinner. They say it saves them so much time that they can now spend with their family.”

The meals arrive at the club warm and ready to eat or can be refrigerated and eaten later. The containers are clearly labeled with all of the ingredients and include instructions for how to prepare them and when to eat or freeze them by.

“Some parents have said they took it to work the next day and ate it there,” Austin said. “It’s a change from the food we usually hand out because it’s fresh and ready to eat, with veggies and fruit. They’re nourishing meals.”

Some of the families are experiencing food insecurity, and others just need a helping hand and a hot meal during a difficult time, according to the press release distributed by Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Salt Lake.

“Food access is an important aspect to our families that are living in a shelter or hotels,” said Jaimie Dunn, director of operations at Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Salt Lake in the press release. “Many of our families in need do not have access to a full kitchen to prepare healthy meals. The other wonderful part is that the food is high-quality food that would have otherwise gone to waste.”

Waste Less Solutions was launched in 2018 to prevent and divert food waste in Utah. One of the organization’s programs “rescues” food from restaurants, markets and other food distributers that otherwise would have been thrown away.

Some of the rescued food is taken to a commercial kitchen, where a volunteer chef turns the ingredients into the healthy meals that are delivered to pre-identified families and nonprofit partners the next day. Waste Less Solutions reports that it donated and delivered more than $280,000 worth of food in 2020.

The pilot Boys & Girls Club program is being made possible by a $20,000 grant from 100 Women Who Care. The Salt Lake chapter of this grassroots charitable organization has contributed more than $400,000 to local groups since it formed in 2015.

“This funding is allowing us to take our food rescue to the next level,” said Dana Williamson, founder and president of Waste Less Solutions in the press release. “We realize that sometimes giving someone fresh produce and assuming they have time, resources, and knowledge of how to cook it where it tastes good isn't always realistic.”

Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Salt Lake hope to grow the meals program to more clubs and families later this year.

One week when there were fewer families stopping by the Midvale Club, the meals were served during club hours to just the youth, who ate them up.

“Some are more adult flavors, like vegetable curry over rice or steak and salad,” Austin said. “There have been pastas with different sauces I wasn’t familiar with. It’s good for the kids to try different things.”

In 2020, the Midvale Club received two large donations of prepared meals from Pulp Lifestyle Kitchen to help families struggling with food security at the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak.

“Our club seems to do well with food donations,” Austin said. “They get picked up pretty quickly.”

In fact, they recently acquired a community refrigerator where families can select food to take home.

“The (Waste Less Solutions) meals are first come, first served,” Austin said. “They don’t even make it to the fridge.”