Eventful Food Recovery

I know runners and bikers are wiped out after completing long events, but maybe they’re not all that…hungry. Two recent examples have brought athletic event food waste into focus.

Saturday, as I was biking to the office to finish my…book manuscript first draft (Trick or Treat!!), I came upon the finish line of a Habitat for Humanity bike race. As I was pedaling past, the keeper of the food tent beckoned with my two favorite words: “Free food.” I stopped.

With the race finished and so much food left, they were trying to get anyone and everyone to eat or take home some cookies, brownies, granola bars, yogurt, and fruit. Most of the food came as donations from Whole Foods, who, it seemed had been too generous.

I helped lighten their load a bit, but asked what would happen to the rest, especially the whole oranges and bananas. I suggested that they call the local soup kitchen/shelter, which was less than a mile away. I would have taken a load over myself, the rescued oranges, photo by Erik O.but I was on bike and had to get cracking on my book. I’d say there was about a 70 percent chance the food made it to good homes.

Then, on Monday, my wife’s colleague Erik called with news from the Raleigh marathon. They had 18 extra cases of fresh oranges they were going to throw away. Ever the vigilant one, Erik contacted me to ask what to do. I told him to call the nearby Inter-faith Food Shuttle.

From what I understand, the food recovery group snagged all 18 cases a few hours later and they went to those in need. This was an especially happy ending, because fresh produce and protein are the hardest things for food recovery groups to find.

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  1. Matt
    Posted November 4, 2009 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    Well done, my friend. I don’t think many people would want to throw food away like that; they just don’t know the alternatives.

  2. Kim from Milwaukee
    Posted November 4, 2009 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

    Well done, Jonathan!!!

  3. Posted November 4, 2009 at 4:16 pm | Permalink


  4. Posted November 4, 2009 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

    Thanks, but I didn’t really do much. Thanks should go to Erik!

    And it shows that a tiny bit of effort can bear fruit.

  5. dee dee
    Posted November 5, 2009 at 11:02 am | Permalink

    It’s all about communications and networking, isn’t it? Someday, maybe we’ll have local information clearing houses for to let food cupboard X know that event Y will share their leftovers. Perhaps a national campaign to encourage local athletic events to develop partnerships with shelters, food cupboards and soup kitchens. With FaceBook, Twitter and other social networking tools, this shouldn’t be too difficult.

  6. Posted November 5, 2009 at 10:23 pm | Permalink

    You’re onto it, dee dee. Hopefully this year’s ad hoc donations will become next year’s scheduled ones.

  7. WilliamB
    Posted November 6, 2009 at 8:22 am | Permalink

    Go you! There may even be a long-term effect – maybe the races will know who to contact next time.

    Race directors are caught in a bind: they don’t know how many people are going to show (there are always same-day registrants) and want to make sure the racers are well taken care of. They hate to waste the food but don’t know how to donate it safely and with the resources they have.

    Maybe for a day’s post you could list resources that will take – or ideally come and take – food after a race. Wouldn’t it be awesome if arranging for this became part of the race Food Manager’s usual tasks?

  8. Posted November 21, 2009 at 11:29 pm | Permalink

    I’m working really hard at inspiring a national campaign about food waste and produce salvage, fruit gleaning. People simple don’t know who to call, and most simply won’t be bothered. In the real world there are a lot of kind-hearded souls, but many are just too self-absorbed to care about a case of oranges. Trying to change that and inspire othere.

    How about this one: I even had a local food pantry refuse an load of oranges that I was delivering. It was 4:45pm and they closed at 5pm. They wouldn’t be bothered. Literally, told ME to go home and come back tomorrow. Turns out the Director makes a fair sum in salary. I’m a volunteer working very hard – and who couldn’t be bothered? Very interesting dynamics in relationshiops and expectations of those in the food waste realm.

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