Epworth Food Rescue Program surpasses 100,000-pound milestone

March 10, 2019

The Food Rescue Program at Epworth United Methodist Church exceeded 100,000 pounds of rescued food for 2018, which was more than double compared to 2017 results. The food rescue total grew from 44,981 pounds in 2017 to 107,806 pounds in 2018. This tremendous increase was due to a small, but growing team of volunteers, and to recruitment of additional donor businesses to the program. 

The Food Rescue Program was born in 2011 when Fifer Orchards offered some extra green beans to the Food and Love Soup Kitchen at Epworth. The program evolved slowly at first, as other recipients, such as Immanuel Shelter, Epworth’s Good Samaritan program, and the Community Resource Center were added. Today, there are at least 15 recipient groups benefiting from Food Rescue. 

At the donor end, providing vegetables, fruits, meat, poultry, baked goods and more, are the following donors: Cafe Papillon, Chick-fil-A, Chipotle, Fifer Orchards, Frank & Louie’s, Fresh Market, Good Earth Market, Millville Giant, Mug & Spoon, Outback, Panera, Rehoboth Giant, Starbucks, Surf Bagel, TCBY - Surfside, TCBY - Seaside, The Grub, USPS Food Drive, Wawa 834, Wawa 849, Wawa 871, and Weis Markets Rehoboth.

New donors are always welcome, as the need for food continues to increase. Concerns over liability are addressed by the Bill Emerson Federal Good Samaritan Donation Act written in 1996. This law protects good-faith food donors from civil and criminal liability should the product later harm its recipient. The law specifically protects, in addition to individuals, donors such as retailers, restaurateurs, farmers, and more. 

The overall mission of the Food Rescue Program, according to its coordinator Gerrie Boisjoly, is twofold. First, it is to feed healthy food to people in need. These include local Sussex County residents in shelters, recovery programs, low-income housing developments, outreach centers, and senior housing developments. The program also serves Epworth’s Food and Love Soup Kitchen, Good Samaritan program, and the summer International Student Outreach Program. 

Secondly, another program mission is to target a zero food waste goal that not only feeds the hungry, but contributes to cutting down methane gas emissions created by food waste in landfills. Today, as much as 40 percent of America’s food supply ends up in dumpsters, and of that, more than half is perfectly edible. Boisjoly wants to teach others by example: “We're trying to bring general awareness to the local population about this issue.”

Boisjoly is currently coordinating a team of over 40 individuals from Epworth and the community, with much-needed help also provided by the Seaside Jewish Community, under the leadership of Hank Smith. These volunteers rescue food from the donor businesses and bring it back to Epworth, where it is triaged and sorted for distribution, and verified for its usability. Any food not deemed suitable for human consumption is sent to places like Rustic Acre Farms where it can be fed safely to cows. 

“Gerrie’s dream of expanding the Food Rescue program attracted our attention,” said Janet Taylor-Smith, leader of WINGS, Women IN God's Service at Epworth. “We immediately wanted to find out how we could help.”

All interested members of the community, as well as groups, are encouraged to contact Boisjoly to volunteer time or donate food. As little as a few hours a month can help sustain and grow the program as it continues to expand with new donors and recipients. Boisjoly can be contacted by texting 302-228-3766.