Feed the Need: Food pantries across the Capital District brace for a lean holiday season

The waste originates at multiple sources. Households regularly toss food or leftovers as they "clean out the refrigerator." But cafeterias, restaurants and bakeries are often guilty of throwing out tons of unfinished or unsold meals, as well.

Fortunately, at least some prepared goods are put to use rather than being chucked.

Food Pantries for the Capital District has two trucks dedicated to picking up day-old donations of bread, milk and produce from bakeries, grocery stores and the like. Rather than going to waste, the food can then go to needy persons to supplement the non-perishable selection in food pantries. In 2007, the program rescued over 230,000 pounds of food.

"Food that would put out for donation at 8 or 10 last night is going to be on a food pantry shelf by 10 this morning, and used in someone's meal tonight," said Schuyler.

Hannaford Supermarkets, who has stores across five northeastern states, makes it a point to guide unsold foods to pantries whenever possible. They participate in the Movable Feast program through the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York, in which refrigerated trucks pick up perishables pulled off shelves before the expiration date.

The program is particularly useful because it gets dairy, meats and other protein-heavy foods to pantries. They are often in short supply because of their cost.

How to help

From now until Dec. 27, shoppers at Hannaford Supermarkets can elect to purchase $10 boxes of food to be donated directly to local pantries as part of the fifth annual Fund a Feast program. Shoppers can also purchase $5 Hannaford gift cards, to be distributed through the Northeast Regional Food Bank, beginning Nov. 30.

Of course, people can always donate directly to their local food pantries. The Town of Bethlehem Food Pantry, for instance, has donation boxes set up at town hall, the YMCA and at the Delmar Marketplace.

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