We’ve all heard the saying “there’s no free lunch.” It turns out, it’s not quite true. In fact, FeedKC has helped to give thousands of fresh, nutritious meals to hungry people at no cost!
What is FeedKC? In short, it’s a project that aims to connect excess food with food-insecure people in the community. For a deeper understanding, it helps to look a few years back.
In 2017, a student at the University of Missouri-Kansas City was working in the dining hall when he found a problem. At the end of his shift, he and his coworkers had to discard the food that hadn’t been served. He hated to see entire meals worth of food get trashed on the spot, so he brought his concern to a student organization he was part of.
UMKC Enactus, an organization at UMKC with over 100 members from around campus that uses social entrepreneurship to tackle community problems, partnered up with him to investigate the issue further. It didn’t take much research to find the problem went way beyond the school.
The Big Picture on Food Waste
Across Kansas City and beyond, many businesses see no better option than throwing away the food they have left at the end of the day. When businesses all across the country get stuck in the same situation, a huge issue crops up.
How huge? The USDA estimates that 30-40 percent of food in the United States ends up in landfills. This is a real threat to the climate. According to the World Wildlife Fund, around 8 percent of greenhouse gas emissions come from wasted food. This is especially serious when we realize that these emissions include methane—a greenhouse gas way stronger than carbon dioxide. That, along with the land cleared to create landfills and the resources wasted on growing food that never gets eaten, means that the planet can’t afford to keep throwing away food.
The Other Side of the Problem
Food waste wasn’t the only problem UMKC Enactus found. We also learned that 1 in 8 Kansas Citians face food insecurity. Health Forward Foundation makes the meaning clear: “143,466 Kansas City Metro Area households don’t know where their next meal is coming from.”
This is not acceptable. All of us deserve reliable access to food. With literal tons of meals getting tossed out every day, all of us can have reliable access to food too! We just need to be smarter about the distribution.
Having identified two pressing needs, UMKC Enactus launched a project to help businesses redirect their excess food to people dealing with food insecurity. This project would soon become FeedKC, which got to work transferring fresh, delicious meals from area businesses to area soup kitchens.
Students volunteered their own time and drove their own cars. We even coordinated the pickups with the companies and the drop-offs with the soup kitchens. It was a privilege to help take on these problems, but we realized that a reliable, scalable solution would need to be a little less scrappy and a lot more sustainable.
This sustainable solution came when a student shared a simple idea: a website to link food donors and food recipients. With a shared venue for donors and recipients, we believe that FeedKC will evolve a lot since it was made up of college kids driving food around, especially during the pandemic. Our website management team is currently working on the FeedKC website, and soon enough we will have a functional site online!
We’ll see what comes next, and we’ll get there by pushing toward our ideal of zero waste and zero hunger. If you’d like to join us in this effort, read on!
How You Can Help
You don’t have to run a business to join in the fight against food waste and food insecurity. We can all help our budgets, our communities, and our planet by taking care of the food we get. Here’s a few tips on how you can do that!
- You don’t have to take expiration dates too seriously. Use by and sell by dates don’t go by any standardized conventions and usually err on the side of making people buy more food. Safety is still the number one priority when you’re dealing with perishable or opened items. Aside from those, it’s usually OK to eat any food that is still delicious!
- It’s not your fault restaurants serve such big portions, so feel free to take leftovers to go. If you really want to go all out, you can bring your own containers as backup in case the restaurant forgot to provide take-out boxes.
- Take charge of your fridge! By keeping your food as visible as possible, you can boost your chances of eating or freezing everything on time.
- Composting your excess food can help to keep it from harming the environment too much. It may sound like a big step, but here’s NPR with a primer! (Also check out this blog from Karen Ramsey with Food Cycle KC.)
- Making a detailed shopping list and sticking to it can help to keep trips to the grocery store from getting out of hand.
- Still have too much food to handle? You can Google food pantries in your area to share your extra food with somebody else!
One Last Thing
If you do run a restaurant, grocery store, or other food-carrying business, we would love to have you on our team! You can find us at feedkc.us. Perks include zero-liability donations, tax write-offs on donated goods, and digital records to help you keep your inventory from getting flooded with any item in particular. But really, it’s our community that benefits most of all.
David Casparian is a Liberal Arts major at the University of Missouri–Kansas City. He discovered UMKC Enactus his first year on campus and has been thrilled to be part of their team ever since.