Rescuing Leftovers to Help Feed the Hungry

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STILWELL, Kan. -- A new program is rescuing food from going into dumpsters at Blue Valley Schools, and instead it's headed to programs that help feed the needy. It's only been around a year, but the program has already fed almost 30,000 people. The Blue Valley School District staff actually got the idea when they saw how much perfectly good food was going to waste every day. They figured that surely someone could use it for some good.

"Unfortunately the food we had leftover prior to the program would get discarded," said Charles Rathbun, director of food and nutrition services.

But now the school staff puts the leftovers in the freezer, and Harvesters Food Bank picks it up twice a week. They deliver the food to food kitchens, homeless shelters, and domestic violence shelters. In one night, the leftovers will feed 75-100 people. Harvesters says it's been doing this kind of food recovery with restaurants for awhile now but Blue Valley is the first school district in the country to do this. It started with one school, and now eight are involved.

"We're hoping this sets an example to other parts of the country," said Rathbun.

Harvesters said it already is. The national hunger organization Feed America recently flew out to check out the program and is hoping to launch the program nationally.

It is some extra work for the staff to package up all the leftovers, but they don't mind, knowing that it's helped tens of thousands of people.

"That alone made my day, that alone, to know you can touch that many people just with good food that's just leftover," said Lawanna Whitcomb, food service manager at Blue Valley West.

Harvesters says the food they collect follows all food safety guidelines and is in bins that were not put out on the serving lines.

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