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Did You Know We “Rescue” Food?

They’re scenes that may be all too familiar: a supermarket has flats of produce a few days away from expiration that need to be rotated out to make way for “fresher” stuff; a farmer faces a bumper crop in her field that will ripen faster than she and her crew can harvest; a community sports team hosts a summer BBQ and has hundreds of leftover rolls and juice boxes.

Food waste is, sadly, an everyday occurrence in America. Though families face food insecurity in nearly every community in our country, millions of pounds of food go to waste each year. Luckily, we’ve seen awareness steadily growing around this issue, and the Chester County Food Bank (and other organizations like us) are able to “rescue” food in quantities that grow year after year.

Our food-rescue operations are possible thanks to a number of community partners and organizations. We are part of Grocers Against Hunger, a Philabundance effort that enables local grocery stores to donate products they’re no longer able to sell but still are viable. Because of strict guidelines, many supermarkets are faced with perfectly good food they cannot sell to the public. Grocers Against Hunger is just one of the ways that the Chester County Food Bank and Philabundance are partnering to expand food distribution in Chester County. Since 2016, this partnership has put more and varied food into the hands of those who need it by allowing CCFB & Philabundance to share their resources and become more efficient.

Tractor-trailer companies will call us if they arrive at a grocery store with a delivery and the store refuses their order. Perhaps there was an error in the ordering, or the product hasn’t arrived in the condition that the store’s receiver expected, as sometimes happens with produce and proteins. Often, it’s cheaper for them to donate to us than to back-haul.

We are able to connect the food cupboards we work with to those stores to acquire those products. Sometimes we go to the stores ourselves to rescue the food.

We also work with many local farmers, using a gleaning model when farmers are faced with less-than-perfect product, or more of one product than they are able to take to market. For example, we recently received a call from a farm in Avondale that has an orchard of more than 300 Asian pear trees that are overgrown with more fruit than its crew can possibly harvest. We sent down a crew of volunteers to harvest with a final total haul of 8,000 pounds of pears. To learn more about food’s journey from the CCFB to those in need, see here.

Claudia Rose-Muir, CCFB’s food sourcing manager, said, “People are a lot more aware of food waste … they’re more willing to save the food than to toss it. People are also becoming more aware of the Chester County Food Bank and what we do, so we’re getting more of these rescue calls.”

When it comes to rescued food, we do have to be specific. Because of the size and capacity of our warehouse, we are capable of accepting bulk quantities of dry, shelf-stable, refrigerated and frozen food items, but we insist that USDA and health department guidelines are always followed. Whether rescued food comes from an individual or a tractor-trailer, we strictly adhere to food safety protocol.

We like to remind our neighbors and community partners that all food donors are protected under The Good Samaritan Food Donation Act. This law was passed in 1996, and provides a layer of legal protection to anyone donating food, so that if in the very unlikely chance that donated food made someone ill, the donor is protected from being sued for liability. The same law protects someone from legal ramifications that could arise from trying to give first aid or CPR to a person who is injured or unconscious on the street. For further reading, Feeding America has an informative post on its website about this act.

If you are a commercial business or wholesaler interested in helping us rescue food and share it with our neighbors in need, please contact Nick Popov at

Want to learn more? Sign up for our newsletter and stay connected. You can also donate foodfunds and time to help us achieve our mission. Call (610) 873-6000 to speak to someone about getting involved or request a tour.

The Chester County Food Bank is the central hunger relief organization serving more than 120 food cupboards, meal sites and social service organizations throughout Chester County. We mobilize our community to ensure access to real, healthful food.

Emily Kovach

Photos, top to bottom: Ed Williams; Chester County Food Bank