The following article was published in Clay Today on Dec. 9, 2010.

 

Karen Helseth arrives with one millionth pound of groceries donated to Waste not Want Not.

By Christina Leach Phillips, Correspondent 

ORANGEPARK– When Karen Helseth drove her van filled with donated groceries from Publix into the driveway of the “Waste Not Want Not” building on Monday, Dec. 6, she was greeted with a bouquet of balloons, the sounds of an air horn blasting, and clapping from volunteers.  Helseth had delivered the one millionth pound of donated groceries so far this year to the non-profit “food rescue” agency. 

On hand for the celebration, was Frank Rossi from St. Francis Soup Kitchen, the first recipient agency that Waste Not Want Not helped 20 years ago. Helseth, one of agency’s first volunteers, handed the ceremonial groceries to Rossi to honor the occasion. 

“Last year, for the whole year, we rescued 750,000 pounds, so this is a huge increase for us, which has been very good because there is a huge increase in the demand as well,” said Sandra Staudt-Killea, Board Chairman and Acting Executive Director for Waste Not Want Not.

“About 40 percent of our food servesClayCountygroups — Challenge Enterprise, Food Pantry of Green Cove Springs, Clay County Food Bank, Henderson Haven, St. Catherine’s and St. Luke’s, BASCA, andMiddleburgMethodistChurch,” she said. 

In these stressful economic times, one out of every six Americans does not have enough to eat, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  At the same time,U.S.grocery stores and restaurants throw away 10 million tons of unsold food every year. 

Waste Not Want Not began in 1990 when Debra Smyers asked three local Publix Supermarkets to donate their outdated food to St. Francis Soup Kitchen, which feeds the homeless in downtownJacksonville. When Smyers received more food than she needed, she and a few volunteers started helping other charities to feed the hungry, and, thus, Waste Not Want Not was born. 

“Publix — They were our original donor — They have continued over all the years to be very generous to the community by providing us with food, which we then provide to the community. They were one of the first big supermarket chains to be brave enough to participate in food rescue,” said Staudt-Killea. 

With the passage of the Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act and the Florida Statutes, which protect donors from liability, Staudt-Killea said that many other stores and restaurants now donate to the agency. 

“Our volunteers collect food that is ‘sell by today,’ so at midnight tonight, the stores – they’re going to throw it away, so instead of throwing it away, they give it to us this morning, and we’re able to put it in the hands of needy people.  They get a tax deduction for it, and people get perfectly good food,” said Staudt-Killea. 

Waste Not Want Not relies on 160 volunteers who make 85 scheduled rescues a week  to over 45 stores, The agency is open 362 days a year. 

Two years ago, the agency moved from a 500 square foot garage to its present 1,200 square building at2050 Carnes StreetinOrangeParkto accommodate the increase in food donations.  Walking into the building, one can’t help but notice that it smells like a bakery.  Many bags of bread and other grocery items are spread out on tables and shelves as over a dozen volunteers log in food donations and distribute them in areas marked for each nonprofit picking up that day. 

It’s a hub of activity every morning, except Sunday, from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. when volunteers bring in food, and from 10 a.m. to 12 a.m. when agencies arrive to pick up food. 

“The usual bedlam . . . There’s a method to our madness, but sometimes when you see it, it looks a little chaotic when you are moving 3,000 to 7,000 pounds of food a day in four hours, said Staudt-Killea. 

Staudt-Killea said Waste Not Want Not is always looking for volunteers and donations. The agency receives no government funding. 

“Everyone here is a volunteer,” Staudt-Killea said. “We have one person who gets a stipend who heads the hotline 24-7 — She’s our volunteer coordinator who dispatches drivers.  Like Village Inn called us on Sunday and had 170 pies to donate.” They found someone to pick up the pies “when the donor wanted them to be picked up.” 

Mary Holtcamp has volunteered at Waste Not Want Not for five years.  She picks up groceries from BJ’s Wholesale Club twice a week, leaving home at 7:15 a.m. and arriving at the agency for the morning drop-off.  Holtcamp said she has seen people lined up at a local church for groceries who are helped by the agency. “There is no feeling quite like that,” she said. 

David Garmus, a Board Director and volunteer, said he got involved because it was “an outreach that I felt was helpful to the community — to help the hungry.” 

Helseth, a 20-year volunteer said, “It’s part of my life now — It’s what you do — you pick up bread!”