With a small grant from the Katherine Terry Dooley Fund in Peace and Justice at Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Indiana, The Kitchen Crew Against Food Waste project was created to “put good food to good use.” “Give us your food, instead of throwing it away, and we will help feed the hungry people in Michiana” noted Helena Williams, the project’s founder. 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 http://www.mishawakafoodpantry.com/. Helena, a chef trained at le Cordon Bleu Paris, has been collaborating with Richard Haden, the Kitchen Manger 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 says she believes that Pope Francis’s recent comments in St Peter’s Square on United Nations World Environment Day has 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 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. You can find their complete updated Summer 2013 Wish List and Food Needs on their Mishawaka Food Pantry Facebook page.
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.