'Food rescuers' help provide healthy meals for locals

Published: May. 20, 2015 at 10:30 PM CDT|Updated: May. 21, 2015 at 12:50 AM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - A lot of families and individuals have a hard time putting food on the table, especially healthy meals.

But volunteerism paired with technology is helping to get fruits, vegetables and other nutritious items to people who may have limited or no access to them.

In the cafeteria of Lycée Français de la Nouvelle-Orléans Charter School in New Orleans, a staffer boxed up perfectly good vegetables and fruits Wednesday afternoon. The school is one of many charters participating in an effort by Community Plates, a non-profit, which is designed to give more locals access to good quality and nutritious foods that would otherwise end up being thrown into the trash.

"Our food vendor got us together. We were throwing away a bit of fruit and veggies everyday because kids, they choose to eat one or the other," said Jessie Cameron, coordinator of Meal Services at the school.

"Hunger and food insecurity nowadays is defined by families, or individuals that cannot make enough money to purchase food that goes toward a healthy, nutritional living," said Lauren Rudzis, New Orleans site director for Community Plates.

Soon a cart with boxes of raw veggies and fruits was rolled out of the school to a Community Plates volunteer, known as a "go-rescue" volunteer.

Ann Garvey-Sens works in real estate, but her knowledge that people in a community with an abundance of food are going without nutritious food items compelled her to act.

"That's sad, it's very, very sad, if it's something small that I can do to help the community I should do it and so should everyone else," Garvey-Sens said.

Before long her vehicle was filled with boxes from the school and she was on her way to Covenant House on the edge of the French Quarter where she dropped off the food.

The St. Roch market, as well as restaurants donate food, as well to the program.

"One of our biggest food runs from one of the restaurant satellite kitchens where we had over 300 pounds of food that was going to be thrown away, but this was still good food that you could eat, this was bread and sweet potatoes and three ice chests full of frozen meat that literally was going to be thrown away and we took it down the street to the New Orleans Mission," said Rudzis.

Ozanam Inn is also a recipient of the food donations.

Still given all of the uneaten food, waste remains a problem. The federal government said estimates that 36 pounds of good food per person is thrown away every year.

And according the USDA food waste is the single largest type of waste going into U.S. Landfills.

Locally, Rudzis said they are making a dent in the problem.

"Since this past November we moved an average of 9,700 meals to these organizations, in pounds that's around 6,400 pounds of food that's re-directed from landfills and going to people who need it the most," she said.

And the organization's "Go-rescue" App makes being a volunteer simple. You can sign up and gain access to the app at http://communityplates.org.

"You see open runs, you sign up for them on a dashboard," said Garvey-Sens.

And in terms of the rewards of taking part, there are many.

"It's a wonderful feeling, especially when we teach the students what we're doing with the food that's left over and they understand how they're helping," said Cameron.

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