Rescuing leftovers from wasteful fates fills 25% of FOOD for Lane’s coffers

The food from restaurants and groceries are split into meal plates, frozen and distributed.

While the volunteers and employees of FOOD for Lane County don’t don capes, they are on rescue missions Monday through Friday.

The Food Rescue Express Program, also known as FREX, and Fresh Alliance help save food from around the area that is in danger of being thrown away. The efforts are effective — last year volunteers helped rescue 2 million pounds of food, accounting for about 25% of FOOD for Lane County’s materials.

Here’s how it works: prepared, but unserved food from hospitals, schools and restaurants is repackaged into family-sized portions by volunteers in FOOD for Lane County’s kitchen. The food is then given to families through food pantries, shelters and meal sites.

“There’s nothing more basic than to eat a good meal,” said Wes Reynolds, who has happily reorganized the rescued food items into family portions for more than 10 years.

Reynolds said he finds portioning and reorganizing the rescued food fun and is often joined by fellow members of the Eugene Downtown Lions Club, a service organization, as well as other volunteers who come to the 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. shifts just to help feed their community.

Some of the volunteers are new, popping in just to find something to do, but many, like Reynolds, have been coming back for years. FREX began in 1992 and its goal is two-fold and somewhat contradictory: It rescues food waste from establishments and provides feedback to those establishments to help them produce less food waste.

“We work with each owner to tell them the poundage of what products we get and the types of foods we get,” Dan Budd, volunteer coordinator and kitchen manager for FOOD for Lane County, said. “So they really get to see what their waste is, as far as their overproduction.”

The nonprofit collects food from a variety of sources. The University of Oregon and PeaceHealth Medical Group are two of the largest and most constant contributors, while smaller restaurants don’t stay donors for long. When the program is doing its best, it’s helping establishments minimize their overproduction.

But as soon as one restaurant corrects itself, new ones will have the same problem.

“It’s a program that’s always in flux,” Budd said.




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By Tatiana Parafiniuk-Talesnick, Register-Guard