Chicago sends 450M tons of food waste to landfills
CHICAGO (WLS) -- Each year, 450 million tons of food are wasted in Chicago and yet one in five families in the Chicago area are struggling to get food on the table
The Greater Chicago Food Depository has a new and more efficient way of helping rescue perfectly good food before it ends up in the landfill.
Every food bank in the country practices some kind of food rescue. But the Greater Chicago Food Depository has transformed the way it rescues quality, unsold food from local grocers.
"It's food that for whatever reason, they are unable to use," explained Ken Cozzi, Executive Director of the Above and Beyond Food Pantry. "It can just be a change in packaging, a different skew number and they have to pull it off the shelves. And I'm sure there's a time and place where it's just thrown in the garbage and that just doesn't make any sense to us."
The Above and Beyond Food Pantry in West Garfield Park is open six-days-a-week serving up to 150 people a day.
They are one of 18 larger community pantries picking up food for 39 smaller or spoke pantries.
The food bank launched the hub and spoke model in 2021.
It provides larger pantries or "hubs" with their own refrigerated vans so that they can directly pick-up the rescued food from the grocers for themselves and distributes them to the "spokes" - or the smaller neighboring pantries, soup kitchens and shelters.
The process ensures food rescued by the community stays in the community. And it's working. The program has increased food rescue by 30 percent.
"We're looking at tons and tons of extra food that is provided us and our partners," said Cozzi. "The benefit to that is not just rescuing the food from the garbage, it's also providing other options for our clients."
"We're able to give them things we normally wouldn't get at a food pantry. It could be a dessert, it could be pumpkin pie, red velvet cake," said Cozzi. "You never know what you're going to get. It's almost like Christmas every day when the food rescue comes in because you don't know what you're able to offer and the clients definitely appreciate that."