Outside of ACTS' Hunger Prevention Center, local community leaders and service-minded citizens gathered under a large white tent in the parking lot. Reporters adjusted their cameras and checked their phones as they awaited the beginning of the program. Beside the tent stood two long tables, one filled with fruit and finger sandwiches rescued for the event, and another filled with tshirts touting the Prince William Food Rescue logo surrounded by the words "Imagine Ending Hunger." Can you imagine?
Over 6% of adults and 12% of children in Prince William County are food insecure. The USDA defines food insecurity as the disruption of food intake or eating patterns because of lack of money and other resources. Food insecurity looks like worrying you'll run out of food before the next check comes in. It looks like skipping meals because you don't have enough money to pay the light bill and buy food. Food insecurity impacts millions of people in our country, and yet over 40% of the food in our country goes to waste. Prince William Food Rescue is working to solve the disconnect between excessive food waste and persistent food insecurity in the Prince William County region.
The launch party began with Aaron Tolson, Development Director for ACTS and founder of PWFR, sharing about how the new program came about and where he hopes it will go. PWFR was inspired by 412 Food Rescue in Pittsburgh. 412 developed the Food Rescue Hero app which allows volunteers to transport food from donors to local nonprofits. Jen England, one of 412's founders, spoke to the crowd about the profound impact 412 food rescue has had on the hungry in Pittsburgh, and her confident hope in the future of PWFR. 412 has saved over 6 million pounds of food in its first 5 years of service, but before PWFR can get there, they'll need far more partnerships like the ones that have helped them to launch.
Representatives from Wegmans, Dar Alnoor, Potomac Valley Church, and Image Church were just a few of the founding supporters who attended the launch. Ehsan Islam from Dar Alnoor gave a heartwarming account of his first food rescue, and how grateful he's been to be a part of easing hunger in the Prince William area.Before the official launch of the program, PWFR was running a pilot program with the app only downloaded on the phones of their staff members: Aaron Tolson, Heaven Jordan, and Claire Duncan. After just a few weeks of piloting the program they had completed 21 food rescues, saving 2,564 pounds of surplus food, which equates to 2,137 meals or 1,392 lbs of CO2 emissions no longer released into the atmosphere since that food was diverted from the landfill. These numbers are only a glimpse into what the program is able to accomplish throughout the county.
The launch party closed with remarks from Steve Liga, the CEO of ACTS. ACTS has been a vital public service organization in our region for over 50 years now. Many residents on the east side of the county may know them for their food pantry, suicide hotline, or emergency assistance. Liga shared about the incredible potential PWFR has to greatly expand ACTS' reach and eliminate hunger and food waste county-wide. After the program ended, guests took tours of ACTS facilities and had the option of taking some fresh produce home with them that had been rescued from local grocery stores, farms, and farmers markets. PWFR is changing the way we combat hunger and handle food waste. They are eliminating any barriers food providers may have to donating food, and lowering any hurdles nonprofits may have to receiving and distributing fresh healthy foods. With their mission and passion for serving this community, we may not have to imagine ending hunger for long.