HVADC Cultivator, August 2022
“I never want to feed a dumpster. I want to feed children,” said Kingston City School District Director of Food Services David Dunn.
Recently, FeedHV was able to help Dunn and many other regional school district kitchens do just that. In June, as the school year ended, FeedHV coordinated the pickup, transport and delivery of over 3,600 pounds of food from area schools to neighborhood food pantries and other community programs that supply meals to those in need.
“Whenever there’s a school closing for vacation or a holiday there is an opportunity for food rescue,” said FeedHV Program Coordinator Brianna Merrill, “Building on past school rescue efforts and with Federal funding for free meals through the summer expired, the FeedHV team began to contact districts across the region to learn about the surplus they may have.”
FeedHV had built donation relationships with some school districts before the pandemic, so getting back in contact also provided an opportunity to rekindle relationships as food service schedules were returning to “normal.”
“Schools don’t know until the last day how much they are going to have left over, so it’s really about getting the food and transporting it to community kitchens, shelters and non-profits as fast as possible,” Merrill said.
While this end of the school year’s effort represents a great single collection event, the relationships created with new and old school food service partners expands opportunities for FeedHV moving forward. Merrill and food service directors also pointed out that holidays, breaks and even snow days can create backups of products in the supply chain - providing a surplus of perishable food that can be re-directed for use elsewhere in the community.
“I have a lot of gratitude for the directors I’ve worked with,” Merrill said. “They are extremely proactive and invested. They love feeding people and this gives them an opportunity to reach even more.”
“Brianna will periodically reach out to me prior to closing for breaks to see if I have any product,” Dunn said. “It’s really easy on my end.”
Dunn and his staff in Kingston’s district, which encompasses 11 schools, oversee a number of other community support food programs, including the Free Store in the high school and a successful free meal backpack program, so he is extremely cognizant of the need in his city.
Director of Food Services for Red Hook Central Schools, the Rhinebeck Central School District, and the Pine Plains Central School District, Lawrence Anthony has been another enthusiastic facilitator of donations through FeedHV which have benefited multiple charities.
“Even during the school year we have mostly produce, dairy that won’t make it through breaks,” Anthony said. “We were working with FeedHV before the pandemic. Between the three schools, I had ten kitchens shut down when COVID hit. Having a place to send all this stuff was amazing. FeedHV is a valuable resource. I love working with them.”
Anthony said there is a strong collaborative effort in the community to support neighbors in need. He coordinated closely with Red Hook Responds and other local organizations to see how they all could feed the most people throughout the pandemic.
Donations from Anthony’s food service departments this summer went directly to the Red Hook United Methodist Church which runs a food pantry and the Catskill Food Pantry.
Kingston’s donations went to the People’s Place. Other districts that made donations through the FeedHV network included the Goshen Central Schools, Roundout Valley Central School District, the Brewster Central School District and the Beacon City School District. Benefiting agencies also included Family of Ellenville, the Alamo Farmworkers Community Center Food Pantry, Willow Roots Inc., Fairground, and more.
“The recent success FeedHV has had connecting excess food at our regional school districts to local community support organizations is an example of the program at it’s best,” said Todd Erling, HVADC Executive Director. “We are excited to see the foundational roots put down this summer support FeedHV’s continued growth.”
Administered by HVADC, FeedHV is a regional food rescue and harvesting network operating throughout Dutchess, Orange, Ulster, Columbia, Greene, Putnam and Sullivan counties. It links donors of prepared, but unserved, food and fresh produce with nonprofits and food assistance programs. Through an app-assisted network of food donors, volunteers and feeding agencies, FeedHV facilitates the redirection of food donations from restaurants, farms, food makers, stores, hospitals and schools, for delivery to food pantries, soup kitchens and shelters.