For a couple years, I’ve been volunteering with a group that picks up food that stores were going to throw away and deliver it to a local community center where people, usually needy, can get it for free.
The food isn’t what’s gone bad. It’s usually stuff they had to empty from shelves when a new order comes in. It’s a broken system. We’re not fixing it yet, but at least helping divert from landfills what would become waste to people’s bellies. A typical delivery looks like this:
They gave me a cart to carry my loads, which I can usually fill to overflowing. Lately, I’ve been asking people when I deliver it to estimate the retail value of what I drop off. We’re not experts, but we’ve been estimating about $300 to $500 per delivery. Not all are big ones, but rarely under $100.
I volunteer three times a week, which means about $1,000 per week, which means about $50,000 per year. I didn’t think I was delivering that much, but that’s serious money. I estimate a bit over an hour per run, so about four or five hours per week.
[EDIT: I’ve been thinking about these numbers and I don’t think I bring $500 on many deliveries, despite people’s estimations. I’d say over $100 on most deliveries, so probably more than $20,000 per year, but probably not $50,000.]
I’m also one of the only volunteers who takes the food scraps to the group in Union Square that takes them for composting. We generate a lot of scraps. Before the pandemic, the city was planning to collect food scraps. It stopped during the pandemic and is slowly restarting. In the meantime, I carry some big loads, often smelly, sometimes very smelly.
The picture below shows me dumping the scraps from a container that was full. The guy helping me is from the group there.
The little spots on the inside of the lid are maggots. Longtime podcast listeners may remember my conversations with Terracycle founder Tom Szaky sharing how starting his company involved summer food scraps, nasty smells, and maggots. People who do the work get results.
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