Community Food Rescue

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Recently, Central Farm Markets joined the food recovery revolution.  Every year, 23% of Montgomery County’s solid waste (246,000 tons) is from food. Meanwhile, about 80,000 residents experience hunger and may not know where their next meal will come from.

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For years, CFM has worked with Manna Food Center – the largest food recovery and distribution organization in Montgomery County.  We encourage farmers to donate unsold produce at the end of the market and to collect money for the agency. Now CFM has agreed to be a “Rescue Recruiter” for a new Countywide coordinated food recovery system called “Community Food Rescue.” CFR will enhance all food recovery efforts, like Manna’s and many other hunger relief organizations that already recover food throughout Montgomery County.

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Community Food Rescue (CFR) grew out of the vision of the Montgomery County Food Council. In 2012, inspired by a campus food recovery program organized by students at the University of Maryland, College Park, Councilwoman Valerie Ervin introduced the idea of coordinating food recovery throughout Montgomery County. Their Action Plan was adopted by County Council in September 2013. The Action Plan, along with funding from County Council and County Executive Ike Leggett, forms the basis of Community Food Rescue.

Under the support of the Montgomery County Food Council, the Food Recovery Working Group – comprised of businesses, agencies, and organizations actively engaged in food recovery – continues to advise and support the Coordination Team, which is charged with developing the overall strategy, design, and implementation of Community Food Rescue.

Manna Food Center leads the Coordination Team with Cheryl Kollin of Full Plate Ventures, who serves as Program Manager, and by and The Campus Kitchen Project of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES) at the Universities at Shady Grove. UMES students provide a “quick response team” to pick up and deliver recovered food.

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Here’s how it works:

CFR seeks out licensed food businesses in Montgomery County (such as restaurants, caterers, groceries, farmers, farm markets, institutions, etc.) to donate their near expired and surplus food. Volunteer Food Runners then transport the donated food from the business to hunger relief agencies. These recipient organizations provide food (including shelf stable, frozen, fresh, or prepared) to people in need of emergency food supplies or meals. Food donors will be matched with food recipient organizations and volunteer food runners through a free, web-based app.

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There are three aspects to this equation: food businesses, volunteer food runners, and hunger relief  organizations. Central Farm Markets is helping to recruit the first two. The goal is to recruit participants now so that everyone can sign-on to the web-based app as soon as it’s ready in late summer.

In addition, CFR encourages participants to attend a FREE safe food handling training to learn how to handle and transport food safely.  The first training is scheduled for June 25th from 5-7pm. For more details and to register, click here.

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Volunteer food runner matches will be made based on proximity, size of vehicle to handle food, and your availability. This is an activity well suited for individuals, families, and groups with good driving records. You will help fill bellies instead of landfills. You can teach others the importance of empathy and compassion by giving us just a few free hours of your time. Do you work for a Montgomery County licensed food business, or know a food business that might be interested in donating food? We need those too!

Please email me if this is something that you would like to be a part of. There will also be information available at all Central Farm Markets info tents. I’m happy to answer your questions and we are excited to help Community Food Rescue in this amazing journey of food rescue in Montgomery County.

For more information about Community Food Rescue, visit their website and Facebook page.

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The Compost Crew

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Collect, Compost, Cultivate. That’s the idea behind the Compost Crew. They want to change your waste practices. They want to teach you how to support the organic waste movement. And at Bethesda Central Farm Market, they are starting a free composting program that will encourage children to compost in their homes! The CompostKIDS Program will begin at Bethesda Central Farm Market this weekend!

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The Compost Crew got its start in May of 2011. Co-founders Ryan Walter and Brian Flores, friends since kindergarten, decided that they wanted to grow food in “untraditional environments,” but they needed good soil to do so. Brian wanted to do more to make this rich, fertile soil available to others. His friends motivated him to create his own company, and the Compost Crew was born.

The pair decided they would launch the company once they had 15 customers. Between May and December of 2011, they acquired at least one new customer per month. In the Spring of 2012, the pair made a deal with the community of Somerset, which helped them secure 25+ new customers. Ryan worked on the website and communications, while Brian was in charge of collecting.

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In the early days, the Crew had a partnership with growingSOUL, where they could drop off their compost for a small “tipping fee.” Soon, they were in local farm markets on weekends, starting relationships with small communities, and consulting with larger towns to become a municipal service. In 2014, they went from 250 customers to nearly 1200 due to their partnerships with Chevy Chase and Takoma Park. They have been servicing these homes ever since.

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The development is moving along, but they are still missing a part of the puzzle that the guys find very important. Sure, they are collecting compost. And yes, they’re distributing the waste to a place where it could be sustainably taken care of. But Ryan and Brian want to complete the process – they want to cultivate the soil into a product that they can distribute and that could be used to restart the whole process again. They want to put their collected compost right back into the earth to create a network of farms to “close the loop” in the composting model. This is the next step for The Compost Crew.

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Starting on Sunday April 26, and continuing through Sunday, October 25, 2015, kids ages up to 12 will be able to join in the fun. This program will be available at only at Bethesda Central Farm Market. Learn more about how the program works.