Jersey City, NJ, launches food rescue mapping, to feed those in need

JERSEY CITY — Stemming from its selection for the National Resource Defense Council’s “Food Matters” cohort two years ago, this Hudson County town is in the early stages of implementing something called food rescue mapping. , to identify and nurture neighborhoods in need.

The effort combines the concepts of food rescue, where an establishment or manufacturer will arrange for excess food to be diverted from its waste management systems, with food banks, or move that excess into pantries. and soup kitchens, said Stacey Flanagan, Jersey City Health and Human Services. director.

These leftover foods are usually already prepared and not stable, as Flanagan gave the example of a restaurant that has lasagna on its menu, prepares a full lasagna for its dinner service, but only receives two orders and ends up with eight others unused.

“Food rescue is taking that lasagna, which hasn’t been served, and getting it to a soup kitchen,” she said.

Alexander Mirescu, the manager of this city-wide project, said that many of the companies contacted for possible involvement are owned by women, minorities or immigrants – about 1,400 in total, through communications in English and Spanish.

They will see their annual refrigeration costs go down, he said, by not having to store food they may never sell.

A victory for taxpayers too

Additionally, the city should spend less on transportation, which will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and ultimately ease the burden on taxpayers.

“Let’s not just have a food safety model, and let’s not just reduce our food waste, but let’s support our small and medium businesses in Jersey City,” Mirescu said.

While officials hope to see “meaningful” savings start to show in three to six months, they are also already looking at a much bigger picture.

Flanagan said big names in meal kits like HelloFresh and Blue Apron change their menus regularly, and Jersey City wants to help move their unused product to food banks and soup kitchens.

Could other cities in NJ use this model?

Some of these locations are within the city, but discussions with other New Jersey municipalities could expand this program further.

“Places where we can’t reach someone fast enough, that’s how some of these pantries that already have food that they can move help out,” Flanagan said.

She also mentioned an app called “Too Good To Go” that shows nightly which establishments are ready to return leftover food and where.

Mirescu said that as helpful as the system may possibly be for people with food insecurity, the eyes also stay on the bottom line to some degree.

“This is a practice that any community, small, medium or large, could study and use our example and save money,” he said.

Patrick Lavery is a reporter and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at [email protected]

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