Pet rescue has become a popular way for animal lovers to find homes for shelter dogs and cats. But what about food rescue? Food rescue is an innovative service the team at the Hunger Network of Greater Cleveland has adopted to fill plates and stock shelves at their hot-meal centers and food pantries.
Hunger Network Board Member Dan Hartman compares the one-year-old food rescue program to an Uber that transports food instead of people — complete with a phone app. Food providers, such as Hunger Network partner Giant Eagle, notify a team of on-call volunteers when they have a surplus of perishable foods such as fruits, vegetables or breads. (Hunger Network partners with other local establishments, too, such as restaurants, catering companies, other grocery stores and breakfast shops.) The store posts a notice in the app, and volunteers pick up the food and deliver it to area hunger centers. Typical response time is less than an hour.
Aimed at reducing waste while fighting hunger, the program addresses an alarming paradox — while one in five people in Cuyahoga County goes hungry, up to 40 percent of good food is going to waste.
Hartman also is chair of the organization’s signature fundraiser, Best Party of the Year, which marks its 30th anniversary in December. He says the 1920s-themed event will provide crucial funding for programs like the food rescue. The party will be at Cleveland’s Renaissance Hotel in a space that is four times larger than venues it has used in past years. With the larger capacity and milestone anniversary, the group has set an ambitious goal of raising $150,000 and attracting 1,000
“We think we can do it,” says Hartman. “Thirty consecutive years is a pretty long time to have an event running. It will be bigger and better than ever.”
Hartman emphasizes that the organization works hard to make the most of the money it raises. The Hunger Network serves 40,000 individuals every month. Thirty percent of those helped are children.
“One dollar we raise can feed a family of four. So the $150,000 from the event could potentially turn into 600,000 meals,” he says.
He also points to the Hunger Network’s low overhead as another example of how the organization uses donations efficiently.
“Ninety-six cents of every dollar we raise goes directly to services,” he says. “That is much higher than many other nonprofits.”
Looking to the future, Hartman and his fellow board members are guiding the organization beyond the core mission of providing groceries and meals. Using their unique network of 70 hunger centers throughout Cuyahoga County, they are expanding their focus to health and wellness.