Milestone: 5 Million Pounds of Food to Feed the Hungry

Five million pounds – that is the amount of food Saving Grace has rescued to feed the hungry in just over seven years. The nonprofit organization, which provides Omaha’s only perishable food rescue dedicated to feeding the hungry with nutritious surplus food that otherwise would go to waste, is celebrating this milestone as the holidays approach.

Over the past eight months, Saving Grace Perishable Food Rescue has remained flexible and adapted its operations to meet the evolving needs for food during the pandemic. As normal pickups decreased when some businesses closed or experienced supply chain disruptions, Saving Grace partnered with other community groups and provided its logistics and transportation services to help with emerging needs for food delivery. Saving Grace picked up healthy perishable food from businesses that closed their kitchens because of COVID-19, transported USDA Farmers to Families Food Boxes to nonprofit agencies and schools to feed their clients, and connected excess produce from community gardens with those who are hungry.

“This allowed us to increase the amount of perishable food provided to our nonprofit partner agencies asking for more food for their clients because of greater needs,” said Beth Ostdiek Smith, founder and CEO. “So far just this year, we’ve rescued and transported more than 1.1 million pounds of healthy food to feed the hungry.

“We are grateful for the community embracing our simple mission to feed hungry people rather than landfills with surplus food, and this support has never been more evident than it is now during the pandemic,” she said.

Saving Grace’s team is committed to continuing to find new ways to provide more food to those in need, especially during these challenging times. This includes adding new food donors, such as grocery stores, restaurants, convenience stores, wholesalers, caterers and other food vendors, that are not currently donating their surplus perishable food.

Prior to the pandemic, Saving Grace picked up food from 58 vendors. While this number has fluctuated in recent months, Saving Grace continues to provide dairy products, meats, fresh fruits and vegetables, prepared and prepackaged meals, and grain products – free of charge – to more than 40 nonprofit partner agencies.

Saving Grace began operations in October 2013 with one refrigerated truck and driver that picked up food from three vendors and delivered it to three pantries. Fast forward seven years and Saving Grace now operates four refrigerated trucks and one refrigerated van. The van joined the fleet this fall and provides Saving Grace with additional capacity to respond to evolving needs for food rescue and transportation, while also continuing with normal pickups. This is especially important now with the increased number of people who are food insecure.  

In addition to feeding the hungry with healthy food, Saving Grace has helped keep 2,500 tons of food waste out of the landfills. Awareness has increased through Saving Grace’s “no wasted food” movement that educates the public on ways they can reduce food waste in their own lives and advocate for changes in their community.