Guest: In a land of wasted food, a local beacon


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It is quite shocking to see people waste food; how vital is that loaf of bread for an impecunious person who can’t afford to buy one? But some do care, including Iowa’s original food-rescue organization, Table to Table.

This amazing nonprofit organization aims to keep wholesome, edible food from going to waste by collecting it from donors and distributing to those in need through agencies that serve the hungry, homeless, and at-risk populations.

Since its creation in 1996, Table to Table has kept more than 6.7 million pounds of food from going to waste. Nationwide, 27 percent of the food supply goes to waste every year, and 96 billion pounds of food is thrown away each year, the organization reports. It is estimated that 30 million adults and 4 million children go hungry at least once a month; in such a crisis, organizations such as Table to Table deserve applause.

In 2009, Table to Table rescued more than 911,532 pounds of bread, bakery items, produce, dairy, and prepared foods. Every pound and a half of rescued food is considered an equivalent meal with a value of $2. This worked out to be 607,688 equivalent meals, or $1,215,376 worth of food Table to Table was able to distribute through its 25 recipients, including the Crisis Center’s Food Bank, Free Lunch Program, Salvation Army, and others.

“We recover fresh, frozen, and prepared food that is donated from local restaurants, stores, bakeries, school, and businesses,” said Bob Andrlik, the executive director of Table to Table.

The distribution process has a manifold effect. It gets the food to those who need it the most via the agencies they are already going to for services; recipients don’t have to go to a separate location to acquire it.

Table to Table has a partnership with food donors, allowing the entire system to work, the executive director said. Their generosity and commitment to keeping wholesome food from going to waste is what allows the food-rescue program to exist. He said whether it is a grocery store, dairy, food warehouse, school, or restaurant, the establishment takes that extra step of setting the food aside for volunteers to collect.

The most inspiring thing I found in the organization was the enthusiasm of volunteers. Talking about the volunteers’ work, the executive director said, “The theme that you will hear at Table to Table is the amazing group of volunteers that saves more than 17,000 pounds of food from going to waste per week, then diverting that food to the organizations that help the hungry and homeless in the Iowa City area.”

In my next column, I will highlight the voices and experiences of volunteers who work selflessly with dedication and enthusiasm, serving humanity.

Lamia Zia, a freelance journalist, worked in print and broadcast journalism in Pakistan and now writes a regular column for The Daily Iowan.

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