Pope Francis, speaking to the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square on Wednesday, June 3, made reference to the United Nations World Environment Day and denounced the excesses of food wastage. “This culture of waste,” the Pope said,
“…has made us insensitive even to the waste and disposal of food, which is even more despicable when all over the world, unfortunately, many individuals and families are suffering from hunger and malnutrition.
“Once our grandparents were very careful not to throw away any leftover food. Consumerism has led us to become used to an excess and daily waste of food to which, at times, we are no longer able to give a just value.
“Throwing away food is like stealing from the table of the poor and the hungry.”
At Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Indiana, Helena Williams is trying to do something about this in the seven-county area in southwestern Michigan and northern Indiana known as “Michiana.”
Williams is the founder of the Kitchen Crew Against Food Waste, a project created to put good food to use. “Give us your food,” says Williams, “instead of throwing it away, and we will help feed the hungry people in Michiana.” The project does this by creating recipes to accommodate large, often unexpected food donations, and mobilizing volunteers to help prepare healthy delicious meals from the donation of food that all too often gets thrown away by local grocers, restaurateurs and food purveyors.
The Kitchen Crew Against Food Waste is currently focusing its efforts on the Mishawaka Food Pantry. Helena Williams, a chef trained at le Cordon Bleu Paris, has been collaborating with Richard Haden, the Kitchen Manager at the Food Pantry, to determine how the pantry can better serve the growing demand for meals and how her Kitchen Crew Against Food Waste can be of most service. With extremely limited supplies and equipment, Richard and his crew of volunteers currently feed 75-100 people, three times a week. The Food Pantry welcomes all those who are hungry to enjoy fresh hot meals in their friendly café.
Williams believes that Pope Francis’s recent comments in St Peter’s Square on United Nations World Environment Day have helped draw attention to the prevalence of excessive food waste. Williams hopes that as community leaders and food-related businesses hear the pontiff’s powerful declaration that “Throwing away food is like stealing from the table of the poor and the hungry,” it might become easier to uncover even more good food to put to good use in her local community, and that food donations will increase.
For Richard Haden, helping to get healthy, tasty meals to people who need food is his ultimate goal, but it is a huge challenge with many barriers. To Helena Williams, this is her dream too.
The Kitchen Crew project used the last of its grant funds to provide the pantry with three commercial cooking pots that are now used daily to prepare made-from-scratch stews and soups. The new pots have allowed Richard to prepare mouthwatering beef brisket, roasted vegetables, large quantities of real mashed potatoes, and most recently, a seasoned barley pilaf to accompany Seafood Gumbo that was made from recent fish and seafood donations.
But the pantry’s kitchen is in desperate need of additional commercial quality equipment, supplies and many more food donations. Their most pressing needs are a commercial six-burner stove-range, a commercial mixer, a couple of outdoor gas grills, a NSF quality prep/work table, and help in getting their commercial dishwasher working.
This collaborative Kitchen Crew Against Food Waste project hopes to increase the quantity of weekly donated foods that the Mishawaka Pantry receives. Mike Hayes, Executive Director of the Center pleads, “The demand for food has increased drastically and donations are down. It is more important than ever before, that all available resources are utilized. Please don’t throw good food away!”
Local grocers, restaurateurs, and food purveyors are being asked to take the extra couple steps to contact the Pantry when they have food that is still good, but they no longer plan to use it or sell it. The project especially needs perishable foods like fresh fruits, vegetables, milk, dairy products, eggs and any type of meat or fish. End-of-night, already prepared foods, as well as pantry staples such as whole grain flour and sugar, grains, beans, spices, or any food items that are about to expire are gratefully accepted.