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Feb 21, 2017 12:09PM

Rescuing food waste: Q-C partnership finds homes for leftovers

By Ann Ring
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Food Rescue Partnership board chair Pete Vogel and Marilyn DeMay staff an FRP booth at the Figge Art Museum in Davenport, during an event last summer.
Do you ever wonder what happens to the leftover food at your local grocery store or favorite restaurant? Have you ever thought that something ought to be done about it?

The Food Rescue Partnership, a group of individuals and organizations that have come together in the Quad-Cities, is making that happen.

The movement stems from a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Community Transformation Grant, which the Scott County Health Department received through the Iowa Department of Public Health. Community transformation consultant and FRP board secretary Christine McDonough says that food systems were one of three areas of the grant.

The Food Rescue Partnership's mission is to rescue food "throughout the Quad-Cities that would otherwise be thrown away by informing and engaging the public, and by fostering partnerships among food establishments, the (River Bend) Foodbank, food pantries, meal sites and shelters," according to its website, foodrescueqc.org.

After receiving the grant in 2013, a few individuals were assigned to collect data on food waste. This meant collecting and recording food waste from the largest available single source — the Scott County Landfill. Next, in 2014, a group of stakeholders formed to carry out the Food Rescue Partnership's mission.

As FRP's board chair, Pete Vogel believes its strength lies in these stakeholders and partners, including Radish magazine, and River Bend Foodbank and its partners, such as Augustana College, Family Resources, the Salvation Army and Quad City Bank and Trust, to name a few.

Vogel perhaps has a genetic predisposition in food rescuing and redistribution — his father, Bud Vogel, founded the River Bend Foodbank and served as its board chairman for more than 30 years.

To collect its data, the FRP looked at all the steps involved in feeding its community — how food is grown or produced, how food gets to stores, where the grocery stores are in our community, what gets sold and where all of the waste goes. In 2015, the FRP hosted a workshop that offered food donation starter kits and taught food establishments how to get started in food rescue, develop policies and procedures. The FRP also shared ideas on how to motivate staff and inform leaders where to donate.

Vogel also stresses the importance of the 1996 Federal Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act, which protects you from liability when you donate to a nonprofit organization; protects you from civil and criminal liability should the product donated in good faith later cause harm to the recipient and more.

The FRP is proud of its stakeholders, partners and area restaurants who are willing to make small changes to feed just a few more, Vogel says, such as Ross' Restaurant in Bettendorf and Outback Steakhouse in Davenport.

For instance, one of the shelters Ross' donates to is Cafe on Vine in Davenport, according to the restaurant's general manager, Melissa Freidhof-Rodgers.

"Tomorrow, in fact, we're dropping off 40 pounds of sausage links, and we also donate our meat and turkey products. They really like and appreciate our protein," she says. "We also donate our leftover ground beef that we use on our Magic Mountain."

Other food partners, such as Panera Bread and Jewel, quietly donate behind the scenes to area shelters, too, Vogel says.

"We encourage partnerships."

Ann Ring is a frequent Radish contributor. For more information on the Food Rescue Partnership, visit its website page foodrescueqc.org or its Facebook page, facebook.com/foodrescueqc.

How you can help

Here are some tips to reduce food waste in your own home:
— Cook or eat what you already have before buying more.
— Plan your menu before you go shopping, and stick to your list.
— Buy only what you realistically need and will use. Buying in bulk only saves money if you are able to use the food before it spoils.
— Use the “first in, first out” rule by rotating food in the refrigerator when you come home from the grocery store.
— Treat expiration and sell-by dates as a guide. Foods such as bread and yogurt will last a few days longer than the date listed.
— Pare down your servings if you find yourself throwing away food regularly.
— Save and eat leftovers.
— Freeze, preserve or can surplus fruits and vegetables — especially abundant seasonal produce.
— Start a compost pile, and compost food scraps rather than throw them away. 

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