Grant helps Nebraska nonprofit ‘rescue’ food to avoid waste with new refrigerated truck

When Evan* received a box of fresh strawberries, he lit up. The young boy loves fresh fruit but knows how difficult it can be to get it through the local food pantries his family sometimes relies on. Thanks to the efforts of Saving Grace Perishable Food Rescue, Evan and his family are able to enjoy these fruits and vegetables, while helping to eliminate waste. 

Saving Grace, which is located in Omaha, Nebraska, partners with grocery stores, restaurants, schools and other companies to collect donated perishable food items that are still good but would otherwise be thrown out.

Things like dairy products, fruits, vegetables, meats and prepared meals are then delivered the same day to local nonprofits that help feed the hungry, including food pantries, shelters, transitional living facilities, senior centers and more. 

These donations wouldn’t be possible without the right equipment to support delivery. Insulated, refrigerated vehicles are crucial to Saving Grace’s mission, as they don’t have warehouse space and prioritize immediate distribution.

To help meet the increased need of the community, Saving Grace received a $300,000 UnitedHealthcare grant in order to purchase a new van and a 14-foot refrigerated truck to help make deliveries. The grant also supported new staff positions, outreach and education to aid in the organization’s growth.

“When we learned that we would be receiving the grant from UnitedHealthcare, we felt an enormous amount of gratitude and joy,” said Beth Ostdiek Smith, the CEO and president of Saving Grace Perishable Food Rescue. “The new replacement refrigerated truck and van positions us to better respond to emerging opportunities for food donations.”

In Nebraska, 1 in 8 people struggles with hunger. In addition, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reports roughly 40% of food produced in America goes to waste.

“The uncertainty of not knowing where one’s next meal will come from is a reality in the Omaha area,” Beth said. “Our simple, yet powerful, mission is to connect excess perishable food to local nonprofits that feed our hungry, while raising awareness and educating the community on food waste and hunger.”

Catering Creations is one of more than 50 community partners that donates food to Saving Grace. Chef and co-owner Jennifer Snow has worked with the nonprofit since 2014, donating extra produce, prepared meals, meats and vegetables left over from catering events.

“In our industry, your heart breaks when you have to throw the food away, knowing there are people out there who really need it,” Jennifer said. “Our partnership allows us to give back to our community and help families. It’s wonderful to be a part of something that makes such a huge impact.”

Last year, Saving Grace delivered more than 1.3 million pounds of healthy, perishable food to those in need. 

“Families benefit from having good, fresh food on their dinner tables,” Beth said. “By having access to nutritious foods, children are better able to learn and grow, and seniors and veterans can lead healthier lives.”

View Saving Grace’s nonprofit partners.

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