Desert Harvest has been collecting surplus food from restaurants for the past 11 years. In 2011, Desert Harvest rescued an average of 122,000 pounds of food per month – a significant increase from the previous year. Over 70 restaurants, grocers, hotels, distributors, schools and caterers currently make donations and there are 19 recipient agencies who distribute the food to individuals and families.
Community Plates, a non-profit organization with a similar mission, recently established operations in Albuquerque. The Duke City is one of three locations where Community Plates works to connect surplus food from restaurants and other sources to food-insecure households throughout the U.S. The two other sites are Fairfield County in Connecticut, and Columbus, Ohio. Here is a note from the Albuquerque page.
From NE Heights to the South Valley and Four Hills to Paradise Hills there is a group of passionate generous food-runners in Albuquerque ready to change the hunger reality of those in need. They are focused on rescuing food for the 85,000 people in ABQ (30,000 of which are children) classified as food-insecure. In addition to this amazing group of direct-transfer food heroes there are already many restaurants, grocers, bakers and other food-service organizations willing to allow CP food-runners to do what they do best and many creative hunger-relief agencies ready to distribute the rescued food.Community Plates is using the Internet to connect food donors to agencies via local volunteers. A page on its Web site offers the opportunity for local individuals and businesses to donate money, food and time. And many of these connections will be made via smart phones and tablets. Here's what the organization says about this process: "After the  earthquake in Haiti, fundraising for disaster relief seemed to be successful because all someone had to do was type five numbers into their cell phone and they donated. It was simple. If we could make it that simple for restaurants to participate, how could they say "no"?
Much of the food that is collected will go straight to some familiar agencies, such Albuquerque Rescue Mission, Noon Day Ministries, La Mesa Presbyterian Church's food pantry and St. Martin's Hospitality Center. See full list
The video below gives you a good idea of how the program has worked in Fairfield County, Connecticut.
While we must continue efforts to save the federal safety-net programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Community Plates and Desert Harvest provide a valuable service at a time when food insecurity is so high in New Mexico and across the country. Click here If you want to get involved with Community Plates, Or if you want to help with Desert Harvest's ongoing efforts, contact Jim Knutson, JKnutson@GoAdelante.org or505.341.7186