Food Recovery, Not Waste

Food Recovery Program provides nutritious fresh food to hungry neighbors, keeps food from landfill

Watch   the Nov. 18, 2012 CBS’ Sunday Watch  the Nov. 18, 2012 CBS’ Sunday Morning segment about food waste in America and how Northern Illinois Food Bank and JEWEL-OSCO's Food Recovery efforts are putting fresh, nutritious food on the tables of our hungry neighbors while decreasing what ends up in a landfill.

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Each day, shoppers look past slightly wrinkled but perfectly edible peppers. They walk away from bananas on the cusp of being “a bit too yellow,” and they sort through apples to find the perfect size for a school lunch or home-made caramel apple.

The produce discarded by discerning shoppers is our hungry neighbors’ gain. Last year, Northern Illinois Food Bank recovered 12 million pounds of perfectly edible food that was headed for the dumpster because, many times for cosmetic reasons, the retailer was not able to sell the items. This food provided much-nutrition for our hungry neighbors – the equivalent of 10 million meals, in fact, last fiscal year.

“This is a great opportunity for us to obtain produce, dairy, meat and other nutritious foods,” said Pete Schaefer, Northern Illinois Food Bank president and CEO. “These are foods that are often out of reach for our hungry neighbors.”

Northern Illinois Food Bank’s Food Recovery program started in partnership with JEWEL-OSCO in 2000. Today, the program has grown to include 11 different retailers and 182 stores.  JEWEL-OSCO remains the leader in Northern Illinois Food Bank’s Food Recovery efforts, donating 7.6 million pounds of food through the program from 77 stores between July 1, 2011 and June 30, 2012.  Other retail partners include Costco, Cub, Food 4 Less, Hilander, Kroger, Mariano’s Fresh Market, Meijer, Sam’s Club, Target, and Walmart.

The donations benefit not only our hungry neighbors, but also our retail partner’s efforts to reduce waste, and our environment, as fewer usable items are going into landfills.

“In addition to feeding hungry people, JEWEL-OSCO’s Fresh Rescue program (which is synonymous with the food bank’s Food Recovery Program) helps us achieve our goal of significantly reducing waste in our store operations,” said Karen May, external communications manager at JEWEL-OSCO. Additional JEWEL-OSCO efforts to reduce waste include turning food not donated to the food bank into compost through a food scrap recycling program, also helping to keep food out of landfills.

Northern Illinois Food Bank trucks pick up from stores twice a week and deliver the fresh foods to pantries that same day. This year, the food bank expanded the program to get more fresh food to hungry neighbors faster by creating partnerships between food pantries and their neighborhood grocery partner. The food pantries are now picking up food on days when the food bank does not, thus extending the life of the donated produce.

The food that is being collected through Food Recovery is healthy, nutritious food. It could be a slightly bruised banana or a loaf of bakery bread that didn’t sell that day.

Through Northern Illinois Food Bank’s recovery efforts, the food picked up that morning could be on a hungry neighbors’ plate that evening.

“I believe that hunger is solvable. There is enough food to make sure that no one goes hungry in northern Illinois.  It’s a question of will and resources,” said Schaefer. "To get this food we need more food partners, more trucks and fuel to pick up and distribute the food, and more donors to help us grow this program.”

To learn more email  Corporations interested in sponsoring the Food Recovery Program should contact Hester Bury,, 630-443-6910.


See related story, Retail Donations Help Our Hungry Neighbors.

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