WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) As much as 40 percent of the food produced in the United States is wasted each year, according to a report from the USDA.
A Wichita nonprofit is working to reduce that number.
ICT Food Rescue's mission statement is to distribute unavoidable food surplus, sharing with the food insecure of Wichita. That food surplus is something that Brandon Hathaway, the Producing Operations Director for Mosley Street Melodrama, is very familiar with.
“I would say on average, we were probably throwing away 15-18 pans of food a week," Hathaway said. "The leftovers can pile up very, very quickly."
Hathaway never felt good about throwing away so much food at his business. It is a feeling Stephanie Merritt can relate to.
“I actually was responsible for throwing away a lot of food surplus at a retail store that I worked at and I just saw that over the years," she explained. "I’ve been there 12 years now and over the years I threw away a lot of food.”
She wanted to do something to help eliminate food waste in Wichita.
"Across the nation, about 40 percent of the food we create goes into the trash. Whether that's at a restaurant, from a grocer, whether it's take out, dine in, whatever it might be, that's a pretty big untapped resource to use," she said. "That's a free resource that we could use for our community members to help feed them. When you get past that and it goes to the landfills, there's so many environmental issues that go along with that. We've wasted water to produce it, to produce the packaging. We create methane gas once it gets to the landfill."
Merritt created ICT Food Rescue in 2016 and it has taken off since then. She uses an app called Food Rescue US. It is similar to Uber, in that volunteers sign up for a food rescue whenever they are available.
Carrie Crow is a food rescuer.
“It has shown me how much food goes to waste. It is crazy to think and to see that that much food could possibly be thrown out," Crow said.
With 30 minutes to an hour of free time, she first goes to a restaurant or other business that serves food, like Mosley Street Melodrama.
“I think the overwhelming feeling when you are throwing away that volume of food is a little bit of guilt and you wish that you could do something with it but you don’t exactly know what the vehicle is," Hathaway said. "I’m very fortunate to have partnered with ICT Food Rescue because they provide the vehicle to get the food where it needs to go.”
Food rescuers pick up leftover food that has been prepared and preserved, like barbecue from Pig In Pig Out served at Mosley Street. Rescuers then take it to the assigned organization or group, like It Takes a Village, Inc., a nonprofit that provides transitional living homes for teens in foster care.
Terry Atwater is the CEO.
“The food portion of our grocery bill, we’ve reduced by about 90 percent so we spent about ten percent of what we’re spending on food," Atwater said.
ICT Food Rescue now works with at least a dozen food donors and a dozen receiving agencies in an effort to keep more food on our plates and out of landfills.
Participating food donors include Paradise Donuts, Picasso's Pizzeria, Bagel Haus and Doo Dah Diner. Receiving agencies include CityLife Church, Passageways and Treehouse.
“It just makes sense and it’s so inspiring and you’re just like I am so thankful for being a part of making a real change," Merritt said.
If you would like to sign up to be a food donor, a receiving agency, or a food rescuer, visit ictfoodrescue.com or download the Food Rescue US app on your smartphone.