How to Share Your Meals With Someone Who is Hungry
By Katie Jain l May 18, 2021
Ever wonder what happens to the food that goes unsold in restaurants and school cafeterias? Usually, it just goes into the trash. The USDA estimates that at least 30 percent of all food ends up going to waste. Share My Meals, a Princeton- based nonprofit organization, has created a model to simultaneously stop that waste and support families facing food insecurity.
Share My Meals is now available in Montgomery. So far, it is serving 15 families twice a week. Partnered with local restaurants such as Blue Bears, Princeton Soup and Sandwich, and The Bagel Nook, Share My Meals asks local establishments that would otherwise throw out their meals to save them—allowing a network of volunteers to deliver healthy, fresh meals to families who have signed up for the program.
“It’s the meals that get prepared that never get presented,” said Karen Lemon, the Share My Meals’ Local Outreach and Volunteer Director. “Even a school cafeteria, as an example, prepares a lot of meals and they don’t get that down to exactly the number of meals to match everybody’s personal needs. There’s meals that never come out or get put on the cafeteria line.”
Since 2020, the organization has been able to deliver over 49,000 meals to 155 families, taking the first step in combating much of the hunger and waste seen in Princeton and Montgomery. Melissa Lister, a volunteer at Share My Meals, said: “We see Montgomery as an affluent community. To realize how many families are actually food insecure was really eye-opening for me. I felt it was important that we try to do something as a community.”
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Beginning in late 2019, the organization quickly took off, expanding its reach five-fold, but it hit a few bumps when COVID hit. Restaurants no longer had the How to Share Your Meals With Someone Who is Hungry same capacity to prepare the meals they had before and schools had closed down. Share My Meals began using grants and donations to buy prepared food, pivoting to supporting local restaurants, businesses, and employees, rather than food recovery.
Now, as vaccines become more widespread and restaurants are able to open again, Share My Meals is getting back into the sustainability aspect of food insecurity with its “Waste Watchers” program, distributing surplus meals approved by the local health department.
In Montgomery, Stan Berteloot, the Share My Meals’ communications director, mentioned they would be interested in expanding their sustainability efforts and working with Montgomery institutions. “In the meantime,” he said, “we will be distributing food from other areas too.”
Montgomery residents have the ability to both benefit from Share My Meals and help the organization. Should anyone wish to join the program and receive meals, the process is simple. Go to sharemymeals.org and sign up. Berteloot explained, “We started with a principle that we are going to serve people who ask us for food without asking too many questions. I don’t believe many people are going to cheat and say they need food when they don’t, so we don’t have a very strict criteria [in terms of who we serve]. “We don’t ask for ID, so we can serve people who are undocumented in this country too.”
The organization has volunteers fluent in languages such as French and Spanish to ensure foreign-language speakers are still able to receive its services. Another volunteer, Beth Kahrnoff, said community members looking to engage could “volunteer as drivers, volunteer as restaurants, or partner with Share My Meals.”
The organization is always looking for volunteers and partners. Sign up at sharemymeals. org.