by Cara Godlesky
As vacationers check out of their homes at the end of their stays, they clear out their closets, refrigerators and shelves. The renters remove their leftover foods, and a lot of it gets tossed away because they cannot take it on the boats and planes home. To prevent the food from being thrown out, local nonprofit, Food Rescue Nantucket, collects and redistributes it before it can perish in an attempt to combat food waste.
Despite being a popular vacation destination, Nantucket is not exempt from the countrywide issues of food waste and food insecurity. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, 30% to 40% of our national food supply ends up as waste.
Food Rescue Nantucket started two years ago as a project to give back to the community through the Unitarian congregation. Food Rescue Nantucket partners with various island farms, businesses, and other nonprofits in order to help people on a wider scale. The Food Rescue volunteers pick up food from participating businesses and other locations to reallocate to Nantucket Food Pantry, The Homestead, and Academy Hill, and more.
“We are picking up food that would normally end up in the dumpster at some point—it’s edible, sound food that they don’t want to keep on their shelves for whatever reasons,” said Gary Langley, chairman of Food Rescue Nantucket. “Usually it’s just a day old, and sometimes it’s the same day, so there’s no issue with quality. Nonetheless food retailers end up dumping it.” Food Rescue Nantucket is working on three main initiatives to help reduce food waste. The nonprofit’s first initiative, in collaboration with Wauwinet Land Owners Association, features installed bins intended as collection points for dropping off non-perishable and unopened food left over from weekly renters in that area.
“There are opportunities all over the island to start capturing food before it ends up in the dumpster and we’re only scratching the surface,” said Langley. “We are continually investigating new ways to expand.”
The project is still in its trial stages, and organizers hope it will eventually be used by more people in the area. The bins are located at Squam Road and Crow’s Nest Way. They remains unlocked from mid-afternoon Friday to Saturday afternoon. If the project is a success, the goal will be to set up bins in more neighborhoods and areas on the island.
“This [project] is a very logical one because there are hundred of rentals obviously every week all over the island so we are excited about this really expanding itself into something substantial,” said Langley.
Food Rescue Nantucket is currently collecting and redistributing 400 to 500 pounds of food each week. However, they would like to see the amount increase through their second initiative, the “gleaning project,” which was created to make school lunches. Gleaning is gathering the fallen or extra produce from harvests and farms once the farmer has gone through their crops. With help of local farms, Food Rescue Nantucket will take the leftover produce to process it into lunches.
“We’ll collect [the produce] and we have a bunch of volunteers ready to go to the cafeteria,” said Langley. “Linda Peterson is the food service director and she has the license to be able to do it.”
Food insecurity increases during summer because there are no classes, which means no school lunches for students. The Nantucket Food Pantry helps 75 to 100 families in the winter—during the summer months, this number increases to 150 to 200 families.
“On Nantucket, even though this is a wealthy island, there is a lot of food insecurity here,” said Langley.
Food Rescue Nantucket’s third initiatives involves a research study that is to be performed by Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI). Food Rescue Nantucket partnered with Nantucket Food Pantry and Sustainable Nantucket to get information from that study on all the current and potential agricultural land and the state of food growing, distribution and waste on-island. “So all these of these organizations—us, Food Pantry, and Sustainable— all have goals that interlace and overlap each other,” said Langley.
Food Rescue Nantucket is curious about all the locations and businesses that touch food from a retail point of view. This data may include people who sell, eat, grow, and distribute food and every aspect of the “food chain.” By getting the facts regarding food and land, these organizations can evolve to make help people more efficiently and even assist the organizations to apply for grants later on. The study will take place in October and the data should be revealed by December.
“The idea of doing the basic research is that we need to find out what’s happening on the island now so it will set the stage for us to go forward and probably do three or four more annual studies with WPI,” said Langley. “This is only the beginning.”
Anyone interested in helping to fight the issues of food insecurity and food waste on Nantucket, call Food Rescue Nantucket at 508-221-8282 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Individuals can volunteer time or donate food. Businesses and other local organizations are also encouraged to partner with Food Rescue Nantucket to help reduce their ecological impact while helping others.