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Greenwich bakery puts leftovers to good use

August 21, 2018

GREENWICH — As the owner of the Greenwich gourmet bakery/sandwich shop Something Natural, Seth Hirschel used to end his day with a bit of a bread dilemma.

His staff baked dozens of artisan loaves, but demand varied and he’d often find himself staging an impromptu buy-one, get-one sale or going door-to-door to share his rye, herb and Portuguese beauties with nearby merchants.

Enter Food Rescue US.

For the last six months, the Norwalk-based organization has sent food rescuers to Something Natural each day to pick up any leftover loaves and transport them to a food pantry, shelter or other agency where they won’t go to waste.

“They take about 10 to 20 loaves a day,” said Hirschel. “It makes me feel good because the food is going to good use for people who need it.”

That’s the simple, successful idea behind Food Rescue US, which was founded in 2011 by two friends looking for a technological solution to the problem of hunger, said Carol Shattuck, who has been CEO since April.

A Greenwich resident, Shattuck was finishing up close to 13 years at Americares when she joined the Food Rescue board of directors in 2015.

“This really intrigued me,” she said. “I loved the model and I loved the mission.”

So how does it work?

Donors — from restaurants to markets to college cafeterias — register and list the kinds and amounts of food they’d like to donate. Agencies, in turn, register with the program and list what sorts of perishable and non-perishable foods they need to serve their populations.

That’s where the technology comes in — getting the donations to those who need them. Volunteers download the Food Rescue US app to their phones and can easily see donations that need to be rescued in their area.

Volunteers can choose to “adopt” a regular rescue run or pick and choose available rescues when they have some spare time.

Amira Mantoura has been rescuing food for a few years now. The Greenwich mother of three typically picks up donations from Trader Joe’s or other outlets three times a week on her way home from work.

Store workers help her load her SUV with up to 15 banana boxes of donations — often food that’s right on the cusp of its sell-by date or has a packaging issue — and she’s off to the receiving agency.

“It doesn’t have to be an inconvenience,” she said. “It’s not a burden.”

And it’s definitely helping the fight against hunger, said Alison Sherman, Food Rescue’s communications director. According to Feeding America statistics from 2016, there is an overall food insecurity rate of 11.6 percent in Connecticut. The organization estimated about 29,370 children in Fairfield County do not have access to enough food to live a healthy, active life.

Shattuck said there are about 10 restaurants and grocers donating to the cause and more than 50 active rescuers in Greenwich alone. The organization has sites as far away as Oregon, New Mexico and Florida.

The University of Notre Dame and Ohio State and Duke universities all participate in their regions, as do many Fairfield County chefs determined not to waste food.

“We have a lot of relationships with chefs,” Shattuck said. “Some are relatively waste free.”

In Fairfield County, Food Rescue logs about 130 rescues a week. Nationally, it estimates it is providing 600,000 meals a month through the program.

Shattuck gets in on the act when she has time. On a recent Saturday, she knew she’d be driving to Stamford, so she checked the app, swung by Whole Foods and made a delivery.

“It all happened just seamlessly,” she said.

For more information on Food Rescue US, visit foodrescue.us.

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