The World Food Prize Foundation

November 2016

Food Recovery and Rescue

One solution to combating food insecurity in our country and within our communities, is through food rescue and recovery efforts.

Food Recovery or Rescue is best defined as “the process of collecting donated food from restaurants, caterers, and other food service providers, and distributing that food to people in need through local social service organizations”. Food Recovery is targeted at providing recipients with food products that are nutritious and wholesome, thus providing community members with substantial meals.

In 2015, 42.2 million Americans were food insecure. Last year, 1 in 8 Iowans were food insecure, meaning they lacked reliable and sustainable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable and nutritious food. Our states statistics become even more startling when we look to our children as 1 in 5 children in Iowa are food insecure.

Food rescue is a dual solution as it not only combats food insecurity in our communities, it also combats the environmental and economic issues that result from food waste. Each year in the United States we waste 30 - 40% of the food supply and it was estimated that an equivalent of $161 billion was thrown out in 2010. In Iowa, our landfills are made up of 13.3% food waste and the largest category for municipal solid waste in our states' landfills is food waste.

In some instances the belief of liability becomes an immovable barrier for businesses becoming involved in donating their excess food. To help combat this risk, there is a federal law in place that protects businesses from civil and criminal liabilities called ‘The Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Act.’ The Act provides businesses with the opportunity to donate their excess food to nonprofit organizations. Not only is food rescue beneficial to our communities, it allows businesses to cut costs as it reduces the dependency of waste removal.

Another barrier to food rescue efforts is reliable and sustainable transportation. Transportation is the needed bridge between donors and recipients, but can oftentimes be the reason connections aren’t made. By introducing the availability and regularity of transportation, connections between donors and recipients can become sustainable and more effective.

How to Get Involved

More often than not, involvement in Food Rescue only takes a slight change in perspective. By making small adjustments in our daily lives, whether that is choosing a caterer that donates the excess food at the end of your event or identifying food recovery opportunities in your workplace, we all have the ability to fight hunger.

Here are some of Iowa’s hunger fighters who are fighting hunger in Iowa through food rescue.

A recently launched App, ChowBank, is operated by Eat Greater Des Moines, a nonprofit organization whose mission works to provide access to healthy food for all Iowans.  The ChowBank App functions as a sustainable platform for Donors and Recipients to collaborate and interact in real time, thus expediting the process of Food Rescue efforts in Des Moines and the surrounding area. Find out more about ChowBank here!

Founded 20 years ago in 1996, Table to Table serves as a facilitator for collecting and distributing wholesome, edible food in the Iowa City community. By connecting local businesses with local recipients, Table to Table has been able to rescue and distribute over 12 million pounds of food to those in their community through their partnerships with area agencies. To get involved click here!

Next Course is a student led initiative supported by Drake University’s Service Learning Program. As a chapter of the Food Recovery Network, Next Course member’s partner with the campus dining services to collect the leftover food from the dining halls on campus. Students then collaborate with area agencies to deliver and distribute the recovered food. To date, the efforts of Next Course has recovered over 15,000 lbs. of food from Drake’s Campus. Next Course is also a partner in several on-campus events. For more information email,

Do you know other ways for Iowans to get involved in Food Recovery and Rescue efforts? Tweet us at @IAHungerSummit to join the conversation!

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