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By Mark Peterson

Some of you may remember one of my previous blog entries, titled “Five Cheese Sandwiches,” sharing about our fledgling Food Recovery Initiative, and my fears of a great idea whose time had not yet come. My how one’s perspective can change in a just a few months! The initiative I was once concerned about barely meeting its goals has now far surpassed our initial estimates, and we have already provided over 10,000 meals to those experiencing hunger insecurity. The initiative has a number of goals, with the primary ones to recover food and divert it from landfill; but another more ancillary, yet equally important one, was the idea of building community with this recovered food as a draw.

This past month I had the distinct pleasure of working with multiple groups and stellar individuals to support a community meal, while showcasing the recovered foods and highlighting the businesses supporting the Food Recovery Initiative. Together, around a table at the Van Zandt Community Center, a plan was hatched to test the feasibility of feeding 100 people with recovered foods. With Wa’Lynn Sheridan of the Mt. Baker Community Coalition leading the way, we determined the upcoming Mt. Baker Town Hall, “Teens & Risk Taking, What’s the Deal” would be a great event to give it a try.

I was concerned about holding up my end of the bargain–would we be able to recover enough food in a few short days to support the event? Or would we adversely effect those who were already receiving recovered foods by redirecting some to this meal? Could we work out transportation and logistics? Well, my fears were once again unfounded, and the whole endeavor went off without a hitch.

Sustainable Connections’ Program Assistant, Tiela Combs, prepping for the community meal

With the help of many, we were able to provide a delicious meal to over 100 people with 95% of the ingredients procured through our food recovery program. On the menu was a tasty corned beef and rice dish (from Aslan Brewery), spruced up with leeks, bunch onions (from Cloud Mountain Farm Center), and spices; delectable breads (Avenue Bread); scrumptious fruit; and tasty homemade cookies. Richard Balogh, chef and owner of Rifugio’s County Italian Cuisine, generously offered up his commercial kitchen and provided the direction for the preparation of the meal.

Most everyone that attended and tasted the fare were impressed with the flavors, as many came back for a second helping!  At the close of the meal, the attendees were legitimately surprised and impressed when I thanked the businesses that donated in support of the programs and shared where the food had come from. Few in attendance had any idea how much food is wasted in our society and that this same food could be put to much better use. This event was a great way to share the message about what a precious resource food really is.

We are heartened by the commitment from the business community for the Food Recovery Initiative and are grateful for the support we have received to help those experiencing difficult circumstances. This has been a true collaborative effort, and one I’ll not forget for quite some time. Everyone involved had a part to play, and when it was all said and done, we took what were given, got creative and really made a meal of it!

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