April 30, 2015
by Erin Johnson

When food donations arrive at Feeding America food banks across the U.S., they aren’t always ready to hit food pantry shelves. Sometimes, the packaging or labeling needs a little extra care before food banks are able to safely distribute it to the people they serve. An example would be repacking bulk food items that arrives in huge tubs and converting them into family-sized containers or relabeling products to properly show all ingredients.

In these instances, until this time-consuming preparation is complete the food donations can never leave the warehouse. But who can do the work to convert these donations into a ready product? We are so grateful to food bank volunteers who give their time to make sure these items get the extra love they need on their journey to a family in need.

Recently, a wonderful opportunity was presented to Feeding America. Sixty-six truckloads of product were approved to be donated that otherwise would have gone to landfill. The product was completely edible – it’s only issue preventing it from going on grocery shelves was that its label was missing a peanut allergen warning.

With all hands on deck, the donor, the Feeding America food safety team and network member food banks came together to rescue the product and make it safe for distribution to local food pantries with a simple label. The donor provided the proper labels and food banks brought in volunteers. Working together with clear instructions the product was relabeled properly and seamlessly – saving millions of pounds of good, edible food from filling landfills instead of the plates of people in need.

Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank, a member of Feeding America, was one of many food banks to take on the relabeling project. It brought in local businesses to help with its efforts. A volunteer group from a local Starbucks gave their time. “I love volunteering here,” said Ixy Iniguez, Starbucks employee and food bank volunteer, “Starbucks really has created a culture of giving back. We do more than just serve coffee.”

Rescuing food by giving it a little extra care through relabeling, repackaging or even sorting is just a small example of the great work that food banks can do with volunteers who are willing to mobilize quickly to meet immediate needs. Immediate or ongoing – volunteer opportunities at food banks across the U.S. are always available. Find your Feeding America food bank and learn how you can make a difference in the fight against hunger.

*Erin Johnson is the coordinator for manufacturing product sourcing at Feeding America.

**Photos courtesy of Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank.

Tags: Fighting Hunger in Action , Volunteer

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