Today, I woke up early in the morning. Outside was raining while I prepared my stuff to go to Food Link. I looked my watch, the time showed 7 o’clock. My friend, Jolly and I moved to downstairs our host picked us up to the Town Hall of Arlington, Massachusetts, Wednesday (10/23).
We had welcoming meeting with Arlington Town members in the morning there. After an hour, we headed up to Food Link with Charlotte Milan. Food Link is a community organization that rescues fresh food, alleviates hunger, and contributes to environmental sustainability.
I was impressed when I arrived in Whole Foods Market in the town. I met five energetic old volunteers gather around in the parking area. They did deftly help for collecting fresh food that would otherwise be wasted from the market. Definitely, Jolly and I did not want to lose. We started learn from them about how to decide which apples that good for family people, poor people and kids. It seemed a lot of apples in the box in the morning. Volunteers said today is apple season – market sorted apples at that time.
I discussed with the elders while shorting the food. I have a talked with Randi (63), she has been as volunteer in 2 years on Food Link. She and her husband, Paul (65) are retirement whom want to contribute more to the community. “I do voluntary activity because I am happy to do that. I just want to give more to community,” Randi said. She knew well step by step to sorting the fresh food that we rescued.
After that, we delivered those foods to different recipient organizations. I would send three boxes of high-quality fresh fruit, vegetables, meat, dairy, bread and prepared foods to Menotomy Manor community. It has 178 families live in the small houses in Arlington. I went there with Bob Charest (73) then parking his car in the park of house community. We dropped boxes on its pantry, so people whom living there can “shopping” the food. By the way, it is free but only limited in one bag a day per family.
My friend and I also met Elise Springuel, Food Link project coordinator on the Food Link HQ in Arlington, MA. She said that Food Link has a quality standard for food safety. Food link has standard operating procedure for every type of rescued food. “We guarantee our food are safe to be consumed by communities. We also educate our volunteers and donors’ staff about how to storage food properly,” she said.
After seven years, Food Link has 20 food donors to more than 40 recipient agencies throughout the communities. I thought it is a big achievement. As my perspective, it is tricky to let “discarded” food to the communities because of its quality, expired date, packaging and etc. However, Food link does it perfectly, they successfully distribute over 45.000 pounds of nutritious food each month.
Food Link also help food businesses in Arlington Town. “The burden on business people is lighter because our state banned food waste since October 1, 2014,” Springuel said. Massachusetts state government has banned the disposal of commercial organic wastes by businesses and institutions that dispose of one ton or more of these materials per week. The ban is one of the agency’s initiatives for diverting at least 35 percent of all food waste from disposal statewide by 2020
Seven years is a long time to survive. Food Link develop its innovation by day to day for rescuing food properly. It also remembered the co-founders, DeAnne Dupont and Julianna Kremer whom started this organization since March 2012. In that time, they volunteered their time and personal vehicles to recover excess fresh foods from Panera Bread and Trader Joe’s after they learned that the unsold food was being thrown away every night. Then, today Food Link has 3 full-time staff members.
When I see Food Link, I remembered one organization in Indonesia whom does similar action like this. It is Garda Pangan – a rescuing food non-profit organization in Surabaya City, Indonesia. Since 2017, Garda Pangan has been rescued 14,3 tons’ potential food waste. If is compared to household’s electricity, it is about 2.256 days of electricity using in one household in Indonesia and potentially decreasing emission gas until 55.711 pounds. Even though, Garda Pangan is younger than Food Link, it already has 11 food donors and successfully collected 95.646 food portions to 80.736 beneficiaries. Such a big number and impact!
I believe in the future, food rescue movement can be potentially as government basic needs for tackle waste in its city/town. Not only for reducing organic waste but also educating volunteers to learn more about healthy food and beverage.