Fairfield County Organization Fills Plates With Food

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Fairfield County volunteers from Community Plates take surplus food from restaurants and distribute it to local agencies that support food-insecure families. Photo Credit: Contributed

FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. – Fairfield County is home to some of the wealthiest ZIP Codes in the country, but some residents here still go hungry. About 100,000 food insecure people, including 38,000 children, go hungry in Connecticut each year, according to the nonprofit agency Feeding America.

“Food insecurity is the state of, or risk of, being unable to provide food for oneself or one’s family due to a lack of money and other resources,” said Alison Sherman, director of communications for Community Plates in Fairfield County.

A volunteer-driven, nonprofit organization, Community Plates rescues surplus food from restaurants and vendors and distributes it directly to local agencies that support food-insecure families, said Sherman.

“Community Plates is a scalable and sustainable food-rescue” program, which is, she said can be easily implemented in communities. The program was started in 2011 by Jeff Schacher, owner of WhentoManage, a software company, and Kevin Mullins. It operates in Fairfield County, Albuquerque, N.M., and Columbus, Ohio.

Sherman said: “As a software developer, Schacher realized hunger in this country is a logistical problem, not a resource problem. He came up with a proprietary software program that facilitates moving those resources (surplus food), directly from food donors to receiving agencies, via volunteer food runners."

The organization relies on food donors — restaurants, grocery stores, bakers and other food service sources — to donate unused items. Community Plates provides bins to store food for transport. Food runners — volunteers who pick up bins of food from donor locations — deliver the items directly to a receiving agency. These receiving agencies, organizations such as food pantries and soup kitchens, provide meals for or distribute food to the community’s food insecure population.

Community Plates plans just passed its “1 million meals rescued” benchmark — more than 750,000 pounds of food delivered in less than 24 months in three states, Sherman said. It plans to expand to about a dozen states by 2014, she said.

“The face of hunger is not what it used to be, and many people find themselves in a previously unimaginable position, much like those who suffered in Hurricane Sandy this year or Irene last year. We know these people, they are our neighbors and our kids go to school with their kids,” said Sherman.

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