Students rescue healthy food that's headed for the dumpster to feed the hungry

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By Durrell Dawson

College students in Colorado are feeding the hungry by recovering healthy food that would otherwise be destined for the dumpster.

Last year, Colorado College junior Shane Lory founded Colorado Springs Food Rescue, a charity that rescues food that would be discarded and brings it to the mouths of the needy.

"The solution just seems so simple,” he told TODAY. “There’s enough food being thrown away in Colorado Springs to feed all the hungry people in Colorado Springs. So, why don't we just take that food, before it gets thrown away, and make sure somebody eats it?"

Lory has plenty of reasons to be concerned. Some 49 million Americans are considered “food insecure,” meaning they sometimes skip meals to eat less nutritious food, because they can’t afford to eat better. And the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that 133 billion pounds of available American food were wasted in 2010, meaning at least 31 percent of edible food in the country can wind up in the trash, often because it’s not pretty enough to appear on store shelves.

After volunteering one summer with a group that offered similar services in Boulder, Colorado, Lory and his friends began collecting unsold items from grocery stores and bakeries, as well as uneaten food from their college cafeteria, and delivering it to the places that need it.

"There's enough food going to waste to feed most of the hungry people in our country,” Lory said. “We just have to actually redistribute it correctly.”

Paul Konecny is the director of Colorado Springs’ Marian House Soup Kitchen, which serves at least 600 people daily. “I have a food budget of $40,000 a year, and that just covers about five percent of what we actually have to use; 95 percent is donated,” said Konecny, who added that the Food Rescue “makes all the difference in the world, because without that donated food, we wouldn't be able to operate. It's just that simple.”

Moments before food is distributed, volunteers for Food Rescue take detailed notes on the quality and temperature of collected food, giving peace of mind to staffers at nonprofits like the youth shelter Urban Peak, which feeds homeless teens. Like similar charities, Food Rescue is covered under the federal Good Samaritan Food Donation Act, which protects food donors from liability, provided they don’t demonstrate gross negligence or intentional misconduct.

Shawna Kemppainen, an executive director for Urban Peak, said collaborating with Food Rescue has restored the value to good food that was headed for the trash.

“It serves up much better when it ends up on the plate of a young 18-year-old man, who's just trying to get off the street," Kemppainen added.

Lory hopes this simple solution to a complicated problem will spread to places beyond Colorado.

“This is replicable in your city and you can do it,” he said. “I was just a college kid with a little bit of inspiration to try to start something in my cities and then it's just blossomed up into this wonderful movement.”

TODAY writer Chris Serico contributed to this report.