Tag Archives: food rescue

Food Rescuing Organizations: How Restaurants and Foodservices Can Help Combat Hunger

With obesity rates as high as they are, it makes it easy to forget the millions of Americans, both adults and children, who struggle with hunger on a daily basis. There are my ways to help combat hunger and as we learned in our Tuesday blog, food rescue organizations are one way restaurants and foodservices can make a difference.

What Do Food Rescue Organizations Do?

In January, we spoke with Ben Shine, communications and development manager at Second Helpings of Indianapolis, to learn about food rescuing and their involvement with the Super Bowl.

“It’s anything overstocked, over prepared or unused,” Shine said.  “Anything that hasn’t been served to the public and handled by food safe handlers.”

Food rescuers get the unused food from a variety of sources such as restaurants, distributors and grocery stores.

Restaurants Getting Involved

According to a recent article from ABC 2 news in Chicago, recent statistics show 30 to 50 percent of the world’s food does not get eaten and ends up in landfills.

Restaurants and foodservices are some of many places where food is wasted, and by teaming up with a local food rescuing organization, that perfectly fine, unused food can be saved and served to someone who needs it.

Finding a food rescue in your area can be as simple as a quick Google search.  There is also a section of the USDA’s website that provides information about some of the country’s largest food rescuing organizations, as well as the USDA Food Recovery Hotline: 1-800-GLEAN-IT.

A Look at a Food Rescuing Organization: Second Helpings of Indianapolis

Second Helpings is a non-profit food rescuing organization in Indianapolis.  On Tuesday March 27, we (Content Coordinators Ashley Cobb and Tracey Rector) visited the facility for a tour and to learn more about what Second Helpings does.

The organization was started in 1998 by three Indianapolis chefs: Kristen Cordoza Kienker, Bob Koch and Jean Paison.  Today, Second Helpings rescues over 1.7 million pounds of food each year and delivers around 3,000 meals to over 60 social service agencies.  This saves those agencies approximately $2 million each year.

“We don’t go search for hungry people to feed, or open up to let them come eat.  You see, these agencies already know where to find them and what their needs are,” Shine explained. “Plus, the food we provide these organizations saves them tens of thousands of dollars a year in providing full food service to their clients.”

Second Helpings has over 600 volunteers, 30 of which work in their facility each day.

But they don’t only rescue food; Second Helpings also has a free culinary job training program for the unemployed or underemployed and places 85 percent of graduates in local foodservice positions.

“We have our culinary training class led by Chef Sam Brown,” said Second Helpings Communications and Development Coordinator, Emily Cutka.

Chef Brown is a graduate of class No. 6, and Second Helpings recently held their 66th graduation.  This last class had 12 graduates and Cutka said there have been 483 graduates so far.

“Half the day is spent in the classroom and the other half is spent in the kitchen,” she said. “Guest chefs from well-known restaurant around Indy come in sometimes as well.”

For Second Helpings, It’s More than Just Rescuing Food

Each volunteer from Second Helpings is trained on what food can be brought back and understand what is safe to eat.

They also recycle and compost.  A company comes in to pick up the recycling and compost and Cutka mentioned some of the remaining compost is used for their herb garden in their backyard.

Also, each volunteer cooking the food is very aware of where the food will be delivered that day and adjusts how it’s cooked accordingly.

“For example, if it’s going to places where children are the main demographic, the volunteers will be sure to cut up the food into smaller pieces,” Cutka said.  “Or if the food is going to Wheeler Mission, where adult men are the base demographic, they will be more likely to prepare something more hearty.”

And thanks to some private donations, Second Helpings has recently doubled their capacity and now have a more streamlined process for their day-to-day tasks.


The visit to Second Helpings was incredible.  It’s amazing to see so much food that would normally go to waste be put to good use.

Second Helpings is just one of many food rescuing organizations in the country and is definitely a great way for restaurants and foodservices to help combat hunger.

To get involved, search your area or visit the USDA website.

All photos taken during our visit to Second Helpings.  View our Facebook page to view all photos during our visit.

Waste Not, Want Not–The Benefits of Food Rescue Organizations

While many of us come home after work, plop down on our leather couches and turn on our 72-inch flat-screen TVs, there are thousands of Americans sitting on concrete sidewalks, shivering as they nuzzle their chins further into their old, dirty jackets.  While we laugh along to the laugh track on 2 and a Half Men, their eyes tear as the wind blows sharply across their face and sends chills down their backs.  And after we eat half of the large pizza and order of breadsticks we ordered from Domino’s Pizza, we shrug as we throw the rest in the trash can.  “It’ll just get old,” we tell one another.  “No one wants the leftovers.”  Rarely do we think of the people on the other side of town in that moment, the people rummaging through the Italian restaurant’s dumpster.  Looking for that night’s leftovers.  Anything that will fill their bellies—a breadstick, a piece of pizza, anything.

A New Low

According to USAToday.com, a record number of 44 million people are enrolled in the governments’ Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.  Many Americans recognize the program as our country’s food stamp program, which is federally funded, but administered by the states.

Stepping in and assisting are food banks, soup kitchens, and food rescue organizations.  According to Wikipedia, a food rescue is “…the practice of safely retrieving edible food that would otherwise go to waste, and distributing it to those in need.”  Often, food at farms, restaurants, farmers markets, or grocery stores is edible but not saleable, (perhaps it’s past its “sell by” date, for example); other times, the food is perfect to eat, but the restaurant bought too much of it, or has scraps of meat or fish from a byproduct of a dish made.  This is when a food rescue comes into the equation, saving it from a dumpster (when it comes from a restaurant), or saving it from being plowed under (when coming from a farm).  When food is saved from a farm, it is called “gleaning”, which essentially means gathering crops that would traditionally rot or be plowed under after harvest.  The Society of St. Andrew, (or SoSA) which began in 1979, is the largest gleaning network in the nation, averaging about 30,000 volunteers each year to contribute and glean over 18 million pounds of food. This food goes straight to those in need within 48 hours of picking, according to the Society of St. Andrews’ website.  SoSA works with many different charities as well, such as Feeding America, and not only focuses on hunger in the United States, but across the world.  The impact of this food rescue, started over thirty years ago, has been phenomenal.

How Hunger is Affected in Indianapolis

The impact of hunger in Indianapolis is astounding; while many think that this is a problem that only big cities have, such as New York City and Los Angeles, the economy has hit Indiana hard and its impact on its residents has affected many.  Luckily, Indianapolis has two large food rescues that are doing a great job of recruiting volunteers to collect, package, and distribute the food to our city’s less fortunate.  Food Rescue and Second Helpings are both Indianapolis-based food rescues, relying on volunteers each day to help pick up food from various locations around the city, help in the kitchen, and deliver to places around the city as well. At Second Helpings, they actually have a culinary class, where they train volunteers who are interested in learning how to cook and want to be more involved in volunteering.  The class is free, so they also train some of those who are less fortunate, creating chefs out of those whose dreams may have been lost for a period of time.  But with this chance, that dream may be back.

Join us next time on our blog, as we continue with our post on the benefits of teaming up with food rescue organizations…