Center director: Food rescue meets increased needs
January 19, 2023
Thanks to technology – a new 302 Food Rescue app – links willing volunteers with a collaborative network between food suppliers and community agencies. Ultimately families connected to agencies, like the Rose Hill Community Center in the New Castle area receive fresh or frozen meat, vegetables, bread and baked goods.
Rose Hill’s executive director Sheila Berkel reports the families served by this center – “easily 1,000” – welcome the healthy additions to their family’s menu. The donations move quickly to tables, and nothing is wasted.
VOLUNTEER ‘CREW’ IS KEY
Here’s how the 302 Food Rescue works: In mid-November, the Food Bank of Delaware and the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association coupled with sponsorship by Bayhealth – launched a large – and first-in-the-nation – statewide initiative to help reduce food waste and feed more people through technology – 302 Food Rescue. A smart phone app, 302 Food Rescue, connects volunteers – the 302 Food Rescue Crew – with fresh, nutritious food from grocery stores, caterers, farms, hotels, and restaurants. Volunteers register through the app, and each volunteer receives an electronic alert when a “claim” is available. The volunteer can accept or dismiss the claim, depending on availability. The volunteer can also personalize time schedules and driving distance, depending on personal preferences.
The volunteer delivers food from the retailer to organizations that serve food-insecure individuals. Rose Hill is one of those organizations, and receives daily donations from Food Lion and Trader Joe’s as well as frequent donations from Acme.
From Berkel’s perspective, the 302 Food Rescue program is a win-win. “It’s a great idea. The benefits for us are so far reaching. It is so helpful for me,” she said. In addition to food for the center’s families, the food-rescue program has other benefits. Volunteer deliveries mean Rose Hill’s bus drivers aren’t doing food pick-ups and can use their time to provide other services for people. “It’s very, very helpful, and I’m so grateful.”
EVERY DONATION IS USED
Nothing goes to waste; what is delivered goes back out. “We try to utilize to the best of our ability everything we get,” Berkel explained. “We get toilet paper, shampoo, soap, toothpaste. That goes.” She also explained that food that one family returns – chickpeas, for example – another family welcomes. “We have enough variety that everybody gets something. It’s very interesting,” she added.
Berkel documents an increased demand for food from Rose Hill families. Although inflation – including increased gas and food prices — are partially to blame, she also believes people are still dealing with the impact of the COVD pandemic. In addition, this center is located in a food desert, an area where there are few or no food stores. “Where we’re at, there’s only one small store up the street,” she said.
The center serves as a resource for residents of several nearby motels that people receiving state vouchers call home. She says that the number of senior citizens served by the center is growing. “They have homes, but can’t afford food. They are facing the crunch of the cost of medicine and the cost of food.”
She cited recent head counts: In December, Rose Hill served 283 families from their inside pantry and double that number from two food distributions. The pantry is open three days a week; one day early this week, 53 families visited that pantry. “That’s double the typical; it’s usually less than 25,” Berkel said.
She also praised the collaborative staff efforts. “We have one of the nicest group of folks working here. We do a great job helping one another. I’m a stickler on customer service, and I want whoever comes through here to have a positive experience,” said Berkel. “I want to pile on the positive experience.”
To learn more about this new program, visit www.302FoodRescue.org or download the free app, 302 Food Rescue today.