NORWALK, Conn. — A Norwalk nonprofit that has been a groundbreaker in solving the dual issue of eliminating food waste and feeding poor families has a new name and a new app.
The all-volunteer-driven nonprofit Community Plates in Norwalk is now called Food Rescue US. The name change coincides with the launch of its new-generation app called FRUS.
The technology that volunteers can download to their mobile devices gives all the information needed to transfer healthy, usable foods to a place where it can feed those in need.
"The app tells the volunteers everything they need to know about the food transfer, where to pick up the food, where it's going, who the contact is, and where to park. It even tells you how big the delivery is so you can see if it fits in your car before you go," said Alison Sherman of Food Rescue US.
Food Rescue US operates all over Fairfield County with a network of volunteer drivers who work with restaurants, caterers, bakeries, supermarkets and others that donate food. It is a large-scale fresh food recovery effort, resulting in equally large scale waste reduction, Sherman told Daily Voice.
Its growth, however, does not impact its mission.
"We are a grassroots organization because no matter how big we get, the food is recovered and delivered within the same communities. The volunteers get to see immediate results of their efforts," she said.
Volunteers use the app to make a "food rescue" run, while donors track their food donations on FRUS as well. Meanwhile, receiving organizations, such as homeless shelters and soup kitchens, can list their needs and track the deliveries with it, she said.
Founded in Norwalk in 2011, the nonprofit now operates in 10 locations around the country. It operates in two other locations in Connecticut — in New Haven and Hartford. There is one privately run within a hedge fund in Stamford by its employees.
In Fairfield County alone, Food Rescue US has saved 11.1 million meals from landfills, restaurants, caterers, supermarkets and other contributors, according to Sherman. Across the country, FRUS has rescued 16.6 million meals, saving 25 million pounds of food from landfills overall since its founding, she told Daily Voice.
In Fairfield County, food recipients include Mid-Fairfield AIDS Project in Norwalk, Gillespie Center in Westport, Bridgeport Rescue Mission, the Dorothy Day Hospitality House in Danbury and Person-to-Person in Darien and Norwalk, among many.
Some of the food donations serve the youngest of the food-insecure population.
“Food waste is an issue that affects the kids that go to school with our kids. Half the recipients of the food are our kids. It's not a matter of having the food, but logistics," Sherman said.
Executive Director Kevin Mullins said the new name better reflects the nonprofit's national focus and expansion plans.
"Right now we are focused on recruiting volunteers in all our sites," he said. "The more food we recover, the greater our impact."
Fairfield County's site director is Nicole Straight was a volunteer for four years before working for the company.
"I was always struck with how food is wasted. Everybody who goes to the grocery store wonders what happens to all that cut fruit and loaves of bread. Our rescuers see a void that needs to be filled."
The goal is to expand to 25 sites by the end of the year, according to Mullins.
"When people start to realize this is a problem that affects everyone they (will) get on board with it," Sherman said. "The food goes to the working poor, to families who make too money much to get aid, but not enough to give their kids more than Doritos for lunch."
To become a volunteer and download the app, click here .